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Publicity!: Scandals of a Hollywood Crisis Manager

 

 

 

Publicity!

 

By Edwin Betancourt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher/author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

The stories in this book are works of fiction. Any references to historical events or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and scandals are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, scandals, places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2017 by Edwin Betancourt

Created in the United States of America

First Printing, 2017

For Business Inquiries, Questions, or bookstore questions Email: [email protected]

Most of the successful people in Hollywood are failures as human beings.”

*
p={color:#000;}. Marlon Brando

Publicity!

Here at Publicity! My goal is to make sure every client no matter where you fall in Hollywood: A-List, B-List, C-List or D, have long lasting careers without suffering the bumps and roads of scandals that plague every turn in Hollywood. My name is Laurel Quinn and I am the Head of ‘Publicity!’. I founded this company after my mother, the late Oscar Award Winning Actress Elizabeth Quinn, suffered a scandal because of a jealous costar and committed suicide. Ever since that day, I have vowed to protect the reputation of these celebrities and turn their scandals around. With the help of my staff, no scandal is too big for me to handle! So give me a call and let Publicity!, handle your scandal!”

November 10th, 2017

Laurel Quinn tapped the end of her pink crystal pen against the edge of her chestnut desk. Seated in front of her was the famous rapper Lil Holler, wearing his infamous thick golden chains and holding his customized fitted cap on his lap.

He had heard many stories about this Auburn haired woman all throughout San New City. She was a force to be reckoned with, but she always got the job done.

Many people dubbed her the ‘Ice Queen’, a term the Rapper was sure would offend the middle-aged woman if someone called her that to her face.

The silence between the two had been present for at least three minutes now. Laurel knew why he called to set up an appointment with her, she just wanted to hear him explain the reasoning behind it himself…sadly the man that won five Grammy Awards and spent most of his career yelling at the top of his lungs in every song; wasn’t saying a word. He sat there giving her an apologetic look and gulped trying to find the proper words to say.

She leaned back in her throne like office chair and flipped her hair back, “Should I explain to you why you’re here or are you going to finally open up that trap of yours and tell me yourself?”

The rapper licked his lips and began to speak, “Aight so this is what had happened-“

Laurel slammed the pen on her desk causing Lil Holler to flinch and stop speaking. “If you’re going to address me, I advise you to take that Rapper façade-you fool the world with and throw it out. You will address me like the Harvard Graduate you actually are and use proper English words.”

Lil Holler let out a frustrated sigh and he gave the woman a nod. He cleared his throat and continued on, “My apologies Ms.Quinn. I was going to say I screwed up.”

“Screwed up?” Laurel repeated slowly. “No. A screw up is getting a groupie pregnant because you were too stupid to put on a condom. What you did was insult not only your intelligence but an entire nation.”

Before the rapper could open his mouth to defend his actions, Laurel grabbed a small remote control off her desk and pressed the power button turning on the large television screen behind her. On the large screen, was a picture of the rapper holding up an American Flag that was set on fire and smiling at the camera. The headline on the screen read:

NYC Rapper Lil Holler Betrays America and Insults The Troops”

Lil Holler shifted uncomfortably on the chair as the news segment continued playing with the volume on mute. Laurel noticed how uneasy he was and she turned off the screen and placed the remote back down on her desk. “Can you please, please tell me what the hell was going through your head when you not only burned the American flag, but also took a stupid selfie doing it?”

“Listen…it all started when Presidential Elect Victor Reber won the damn election. I-I mean who votes for a racist?!”

“ And instead of creating a fake profile on Twitter to complain about it-like everyone else does- you decide to open a can of stupidity and share it with your eight million followers?”

Lil Holler clenched his jaws together, “I was protesting.”

“Protesting what, Curtis?”

“Call me Lil Holler.” The rapper corrected her.

Laurel looked at Lil Holler for a few seconds shocked he would prove his stupidity even more by demanding her to call him a name that made him sound like an idiot. “Yeah I’m not doing that.” She stated. “As I was saying, what the hell were you protesting that you had to burn a flag?”

“Police Brutality.”

“ If you want to protest Police Brutality kneel during the National Anthem or text during a Presidential Speech, I don’t care! But you do not burn a flag! It is seen as disrespectful to everyone including your fans- which is ironic considering all you do is rap about killing snitches and calling women ‘whores and sluts’- but that’s beside the point.”

“The last time I checked, the desecration of the flag is a legal act that is protected by the First Amendment. This means I cannot be imprisoned.”

Laurel flipped her shoulder length Auburn colored hair back and smiled at him. “You aren’t going to jail Curtis, nor are you facing any jail time. This….act of ‘Righteousness’ cost you endorsement deals. Nike, Snapple, those ridiculously huge headphones, and any and every deal you had in the works are gone. Poof! They all dropped you once this photo went viral. I am not your agent; I do not care what your intentions are! I am a Crisis Manager, Your fixer. I’m here to make sure you come up unscathed from this mess.”

Curtis aka Lil Holler grew angry at her words. He didn’t think about the business side of his act and quite frankly he didn’t care. The whole purpose of that photo was to show how screwed up America was; now that Republican nominee Victor Reber won the Presidency.

Although he knew there wasn’t much of a connection between Reber and the police shootings that took place six months ago, he needed his voice heard and he proved it by burning the American flag and taking the picture to show his fans and the entire world how he truly felt.

Curtis took in a deep breath, “I don’t need them! As long as my fans support me, that is all that matters. I have three songs currently played in commercials. One song is even the theme to that stupid show about those girls finding their killer or some crap.”

Laurel gave him a nod. “I highly doubt your manager even called you since this whole scandal went down; as it’s pretty evident you’re wasting my time and yours. However, those commercials have dropped your songs and they are replacing it with new songs by that Canadian Rapper. As for that show, more than twenty thousand fans have signed a petition to boycott the show until they take your song off as its theme. They’re sending the petition over to the studio execs at MBZ as we speak.”

“Wait! What!? Someone created a petition to remove my song?”

“Yes, clever little buggers. They can’t afford to move out of their parent’s basement or let alone actually find a job, but they can sit behind their computer screens and create meaningless petitions.”

Curtis shook his head nervously and he shifted in the chair again. “So what do I do now? I mean you are my Crisis Manager after all. You’re supposed to make these types of things go away!”

“I am well aware of my job title thank you for the reminder.”

There was a knock on the door that caused Curtis to nervously to look at Laurel and he watched as she rose up from the chair and made her way toward the door. He couldn’t help but admire the woman’s hourglass figure that was made possible by the skin tight red and black dress she had on.

Laurel opened the door to find a man no older than thirty years old standing in the doorway holding a manila colored envelope in his hands. “Are these the photographs I asked for?”

The tall man gave her a nod and smiled “And then some.”

“Perfect. Thank you Tony.” She took the envelope and turned back to her desk and she began to walk toward it once again. “Curtis, do you remember Dave Alex, the former mayor of Singler City?”

The rapper thought to himself about the name and he shook his head never once hearing it before. “No I don’t.”

Laurel continued to walk around her desk and she sat down on the chair. “Well Dave Alex was running for Mayor and he painted this image with his beautiful family. Wife, kids and white picket fences. You know the same old cliché bull crap closeted Republicans use to get votes. Well, back in the day he and I was engaged. This was in college, where I clearly had no self-esteem. Anyway, he did this press conference a few months after being elected, where he referred to me as -and I quote- ‘A Blonde Cancerous woman who turned my life upside down until I met my current wife’.”

“Oh my God.” Curtis let out a low gasp.

“ Right?” Laurel asked. “During those days I wasn’t even a blonde!” She shook her head smiling to herself not entirely sure if Curtis understood her dark humor. “Anyway, after that little comment I grew offended and wanted to give my dear ex-fiancé a congratulatory present. Well, Tony-the man who just knocked on my door- is very gifted with his ability to manipulate photos and make them seem real.”

“You mean like Photoshop?”

“In a way yes. But he doesn’t use that program. He uses something a bit more advanced. Something that fools those geeks in the FBI who analyzes the photos, it shows no traces of manipulation. So getting back on track, someone leaked a photo of dear old Mayor Alex sniffing cocaine and hanging out with prostitutes the same day his third son was born. That made the people of Singler City very upset. So upset they decided to impeach him and his wife forced him to go to rehab.”

If this was a cartoon, Laurel was sure animated exclamation marks would be dancing over Curtis’ head.

The rumors he heard from random people in the industry were correct. She was a ruthless woman who would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

“Y-You leaked those photos?”

“Oh Curtis. What is that phrase you say in all your songs?” Laurel rubbed her chin thinking of the phrase and within a second, she snapped her fingers in excitement. “Ah yes! Now I remember ‘Snitches get shot’.” She flashed him a devious smirk that would make even the Devil himself nervous.

He cleared his throat again and asked, “But what does this have to do with my current situation?”

“Great question!” She opened the manila envelope. “Well, Tony and I went over ways to make this all go away and we came up with a marvelous solution. Here is our version of the original photo.” She took out a picture and handed it to the rapper.

He lowered his eyebrows at what he was seeing.

The picture he uploaded online was the same as the one he was currently looking at, he wore the same white tank top, the same black fitted cap with his logo on it but instead of sweatpants- he had on shorts, and instead of a burning flag in his hands, he held a trout as if he just fished it out of the local river.

“What the hell is this?! Nah man. No one will believe that!” he stated as he pushed the picture away from him.

Laurel was impressed at how handsomely athletic this man was and yet how stupid he was coming across at the same time. “Have you checked your phone recently? You are trending number Two on Twitter. You would’ve been trending number one but the Queen of England was fictitiously killed off again.”

“I’m trending number two because of this damn scandal!”

“Mmm, check again.” She stated leaning back on the chair.

Curtis quickly pulled out his cellphone and tapped the touch screen to discover he had more than ninety-eight Tweet notifications and one hundred messages. He clicked on the notification icon and scrolled through the pages in shock and awe at what he was reading. He noticed one tweet had ‘Lil Holler Makes A Statement About Hacking’ and he lowered his eyebrows.

“You released a statement on my behalf?”

“Mhmm.” Laurel replied with a smirk still plastered on her pore less face.

The rapper clicked on the link and read the statement aloud.

“ I want to thank my fans for their response both positive and negative regarding the picture that was uploaded earlier. It breaks my heart that anyone in their right mind would believe that I would burn a flag- a symbol of this Country, a symbol of everything the brave Men and Women are fighting for overseas, that you all would believe I would do something so sinister and vile leaves me silent and hurt. I have been vocal in my community for years and believe me when I say I did not burn the American Flag. I had the FBI and local officials look into the picture and it was manipulated by hackers-“ Curtis stopped reading and he looked at Laurel. “The FBI? Wouldn’t they deny this claim?”

“They can. However, it’s amazing at what people will do to ensure their secrets never get out. Now please continue reading you’re getting to the good part.”

Curtis nodded. He was sorry he even asked the question and he continued reading the statement.

“- Apparently, some very angry people were livid that my name was tossed into the Inauguration pool to perform for Presidential Elect Victor Reber, that they called me a ‘Traitor’, ‘A liar’ and even used racial slurs to describe my intentions. My name was tossed into the hat to perform but I never once held any interest to do so. Yes, throughout his campaign, he had said some very offensive things that made me question where his loyalty was, but I would never disrespect something as special as our American Flag.

I will continue being vocal in my community against the Police Brutality, we have been facing for the past year, for as long as I am alive. I want to thank you all for your understanding. Below I have posted the real picture. If you are going to try to photoshop a picture, do not do it erasing the biggest Trout I ever caught! LOL!”

Curtis finished reading the response and he began to reread it again in his mind. This was a beautifully written response. It sounded just like him, every word used were some he would actually have used himself.

“This…is great but I’m letting my people down by stating the flag burning wasn’t real!”

“What people?” Laurel asked. “When this photo went viral eighteen hours ago you went from Eight million followers to nine hundred. Then before I even started typing out that beautifully worded public statement, that number dropped down to two hundred followers. Face the fact Curtis, this isn’t about politics or race. At the end of the day, it’s about you staying on top of your career. I get that you want to be Robin Hood, I do. But put all that anger into your next album, because as a woman, I ought to castrate you for calling us ‘Bitches, Sluts and Whores’.”

As if the pain was real, Curtis placed his cap over his crotch and nodded. He looked back down at the phone screen and swiped it again. “According to my followers now, I only have five hundred.”

“Give it time. Everyone is still working and in school. Around noon and six the news will pick up on this mishap and address it.”

Curtis placed the phone in his pocket and he rose up from the chair. “You really came through for me. Thank you so much!”

Laurel gave him a sincere smile and nodded her head watching him. “That’s my job. Now, the next time you’re angry…stay away from Flags.”

Curtis chuckled and he turned toward the office door and opened it, he walked out of her office and Laurel couldn’t restrain from letting out a deep sigh of relief at another job well done.

Tony re-entered her office and leaned against the doorway.

“Everything worked out?” he asked his British accent making it obvious he was concerned for Laurel’s wellbeing. She flashed him a smile nodding her head.

“Were there any doubts?-” She paused for a few seconds and licked her lips smirking. “How would you like to make Twenty Five Thousand dollars?”

Tony straightened his posture and looked at his boss. “I’m listening.”

Nine Hours Later @ Laurel Quinn’s Apartment (6:40pm):

Laurel walked out of her bedroom wearing grey sweatpants, a baggy pink sweater and her Auburn hair was placed in a messy bun. She just got home over twenty minutes ago and couldn’t wait to kick off her stiletto shoes and designer dress, to put on something more comfortable and relaxing.

She walked over to her kitchen and grabbed a glass of red wine off the counter.

She poured a little into a glass cup and took a small sip, enjoying the bittersweet taste that was now travelling down her throat.

Her concentration was cut short when her cellphone began to ring. She placed the glass of wine on the counter and walked over to her living room where her phone laid on her black and red sofa. She grabbed the phone, read the screen, and saw Tony sent her a text message. With a tap on the screen, the text opened and on it read, ‘Turn on the news now’.

Laurel quickly turned on her large plasma television screen that hung on the wall in her living room. The screen turned on to the news, which showed an image of Lil Holler and underneath the picture was the caption:

NYC Based Rapper Lil Holler Gunned Down”.

She sat down on the sofa and turned up the volume wishing she had brought her glass of wine from the counter with her.

That’s right Linda! According to the San New Police Department, Curtis Lucas who goes by the name Lil Holler was coming out of a meeting with his Record Label when another car pulled up to his Black Mercedes Benz and opened fire. From what I have been told, Lucas was shot twice in his right arm and is listed in stable condition. Now this comes just hours after Curtis released a public statement that his Twitter account was hacked and a manipulated photo surfaced of him burning the American Flag. Investigators have detained a person of interest and there is no word yet if this individual was behind the shooting-“

Laurel smirked at the information she just heard and she remembered the conversation she had with Tony in her office.

Nine Hours Earlier:

“Were there any doubts?-” Laurel paused for a few seconds and licked her lips smirking. “How would you like to make Twenty Five Thousand dollars?”

Tony straightened his posture and looked at his boss. “I’m listening.”

“I need you to help Lil Holler gain more followers.” Laurel stated signaling the 6’1 man to close the office door so they could talk privately.

Tony closed the door behind him and he gave his boss a nod listening carefully to her words.

“Followers as in bullets or stabbing?”

“Bullets. But I need you to make sure he doesn’t die. So try to aim for his arm. Right arm, he’s a lefty so this won’t affect his ability to write.”

Tony wasn’t like most men in San New. He was tall, dark and handsome and while he was born in the United Kingdom; he had many secrets that prevented him from returning home. Secrets that would end his life if they ever got out, those same secrets that made Laurel hire him without any hesitation.

“If I didn’t know any better Quinn, I’d say you’re hiring me as your assassin rather than your assistant.”

Laurel flashed him a smirk and flipped back her hair. “It was your exact assassination skills that brought you here. It was also your poor lapse of judgment that made you assume I was an easy target. Now, I’m just…promoting you temporarily to do what you do best. Except this time, you’re not killing anyone. You’re just helping a dear client with his unfortunate situation.”

Tony gave the beautiful yet mysterious woman a smirk and he straightened his tie. “Sounds reasonable.”

“Great! I’ll wire you the rest of the money when the job is done. “

Laurel snapped out of her daydream and she glanced back over at the television screen as the blonde reporter continued speaking.

Lucas has been receiving an outpour of support from his fans, other celebrities as well as local leaders.”

She turned off the television screen and looked down at her phone. She tapped a few buttons and smiled as the screen read, “Transfer Completed”.

“You’re welcome.” She placed the phone in the right pocket of her sweatpants and got up from the sofa. She made her way back to the kitchen and grabbed the glass of red wine and took another sip smiling to herself. Her right hand gripped the glass of wine as her left hand grabbed a quarter out of her purse.

Laurel spun on her heels and walked out of her kitchen turning off the lights. She made her way down the long hallway of her three-bedroom apartment coming to a halt at a white door. She reached out her left hand and twisted the crystal doorknob slowly opening the door.

The room was dark but the light from the hallway crept in revealing a baby’s crib, a blue banner hanging on the wall with the name ‘Elijah Zachary Quinn’ and a few stuffed animals. Her bare feet made no noise as she walked further into the bedroom, turning her attention to a chestnut dresser.

On the dresser were a few diapers, a picture of an eight-month-old baby smiling and looking happy and a glass container that had no more than Twenty-Three dollars of quarters inside of it.

Laurel dropped the quarter inside of the container and she quietly walked over to the crib. Inside of the crib was a stuffed furry bear that wore a small t-shirt that read, ‘Mommy’s Little Angel’. She used her left hand again to press the bear’s stomach and it spoke.

“Hey Eli, it’s mommy! I just wanted to sing to you before you fell asleep. Are you ready? Okay here it goes, ‘Hush little baby don’t you cry, Mommy’s gonna bake you an Apple Pie. And once that Apple Pie’s all gone. Mommy’s gonna bake you another one.’ Shhh my little Angel. Go to sleep and know Mommy will always love you.”

Laurel’s hazel eyes watered as she heard the voice recording she made for Elijah for his first Christmas. She wanted him to know that when he slept in his crib at night, she was always going to be there with him, even if she was only two doors down.

She missed her baby and she missed holding him. She missed his laugh, his cry…..the way he would speak to her as if he was actually speaking real English words.

She took a deep breath and left the room closing the door behind her.

Sleep was the only thing on her mind right now. The only thing she wanted to do and the only thing she needed in order to stay sane.

She continued walking down the hall entering her spacious bedroom. She placed the glass of wine on her nightstand and took out her cellphone from her pocket as she sat on the edge of her king sized bed when her cellphone began to ring.

Any normal person would check their caller ID to see who was calling them, but she knew it had to be business rather than anyone of great importance. She swiped the answer button and placed the phone on her right ear.

“This is Laurel Quinn!”

“Hello Miss Quinn. This is Meryl Hopkins.”

“ Meryl Hopkins? As in Six Oscars-Three Tonys-and five Emmys- Meryl Hopkins?” Laurel’s tone wasn’t filled with praise but rather of curiosity. She grew up watching her and singing her songs. This was Hollywood’s royalty!

“You are correct. I am calling because I am in need of your services. My husband of five years has decided to divorce me. In doing so he has threatened to reveal all of my personal secrets to any media outlet that would pay him the highest amount of money.”

“Sounds like a keeper.” Laurel responded with sarcasm drenched in every word. She never knew the actress was married as she always kept her life private, so initially this shocked her more than anything else. “Did you two sign a pre-nup and did your lawyer make him sign a confidentiality clause? “

“No and No. I know what you must be thinking Miss Quinn. But I am very old fashioned and I believe love is love. Love isn’t about who gets money or when a marriage ends. Or if it ends. I was a fool I know, but I really loved him.”

Laurel rubbed her forehead trying not to sound too frustrated or irritated. “Okay. How about you swing by my office tomorrow and we can discuss this further.”

“That sounds delightful!” Meryl stated, as her tone was pleasant and kind. Very reminiscent to an elderly neighbor who would bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekend. “But there’s something you should know Miss Quinn-“

“Please call me Laurel.”

“Okay, Laurel. Well my husband and I met on the set of a movie I did called ‘Matters of The Art’. We laid eyes on another and that was love. He and I have been together ever since.”

“Sounds romantic truly. But what does this have to do with the situation?”

“Oh yes…well, my husband is…how do I say this without sounding-okay, well if the identity alone of my husband becomes public…my image will be tarnished forever.”

Laurel lowered her eyebrows at the statement. “Why? Who is he? Is he already married?”

“No…You see Laurel…my husband….just turned twenty two yesterday.”

Without a word, Laurel knew she wasn’t going to be welcoming sleep into her life, anytime soon.

#DALA

December 3^rd^, 2017:

The front entrance of the Golden Hotel was filled with Paparazzi and fans, all eager to snap a picture of the newest ‘It’ couple currently taking over San New City; model Lola Ferrari and Pop Star Damien Marx.

An anonymous tip on Twitter reported that both the Twenty something year olds checked into the Presidential Suite of the hotel for their first sit down interview with the Queen of Entertainment, Darlene Hart.

San New City may be full of celebrities who are rich and famous, but the city was known for the vultures that inhabited the streets watching from afar and waiting for that one slip up.

Those Vultures in question would be the Paparazzi. A group of people who would take pictures of celebrities in the most embarrassing and vulnerable situations and not even care enough to find out the real story. While many of the San New elites found them to be very problematic and immoral, they weren’t breaking any laws. After all, it was their job to take the pictures and sell it to whatever magazine paid them the highest amount of money.

A black Mercedes Benz pulled up to the front of the hotel grabbing the attention of some of the fans who weren’t really sure if another celebrity was about to make their grand entrance. The back door opened and a woman wearing red stiletto shoes and a black designer dress stepped out. Her shoulder length Auburn hair was in a neat ponytail, and she held a black Designer handbag, which was a gift from the Canadian Prime Minister a few years ago. She thanked the driver and closed the car door behind her.

She looked at the crowd of hungry photographers and emotional fans all eagerly waiting, reminding her of hungry pigeons flocking around a little old woman who would throw bread at them in the local park.

She rolled her eyes and walked through them making her way to the Hotel door. As she approached, a door attendant opened the door for her and smiled wide welcoming her in. “Thank you” She replied stepping foot in the hotel.

The floors, walls, sofa legs, chandeliers and even concierge desk were all colored Gold to match the name of the hotel. “This is what nightmares are made out of.” Laurel told herself walking toward the elevators.

The lobby was very spacious and it even connected with the designer Dulce Amore’s new pop up shop, which had an entrance on the other side of the lobby, but Laurel wasn’t there to shop or sight see; she was there to work.

The staff of the hotel watched as the Crisis Manager made her way toward the Golden elevators, the sound of her stiletto shoes echoing throughout the lobby as she kept her eyes on the doors. It was currently on the second floor and as soon as she was four feet away the elevator doors opened and inside was Tony Vincetti holding a cup of coffee in his right hand.

“Hello Beautiful.” Laurel sighed in relief. The reason for her sigh was not because of the handsome 6’1, Brit or his casual outfit that consisted of a tight white dress shirt, black slacks and a black/white tie, but because of the coffee he had in his hand.

“Good morning Quinn. How is your day so far?” Tony asked as Laurel entered the elevator and took the cup from him. She took a long sip of the coffee and swallowed it slowly enjoying the bitter sugarless taste that was currently going down her throat.

Tony pressed the ‘36^th^ button on the elevator panel and the doors closed. The elevator began to ascend and Laurel finished swallowing her coffee and looked at her assistant.

“Sorry, you know how I get without any coffee in my system.” She stated and she cleared her throat finally answering his question. “So far so good.”

Tony nodded slowly and he decided to tell her what was currently on his mind. “After you left the office yesterday Meryl Hopkins called again. She’s been calling for a month now. Why haven’t you taken the job?”

If this were anyone else, she would use some very colorful words to tell him to mind his business but this was Tony Vincetti and while their history wasn’t really clear to outsiders looking in, Laurel always treated him with respect; even though she signed his checks.

She sighed softly and turned to him. “I have no interest in being associated with the mess she got herself into. Especially as a mother.”

The words shocked Tony and a small gasp escaped his mouth. He had never once heard about a child or even seen her with a man. “A mother? When in the bloody Hell did you have a child?”

Laurel didn’t answer the question, she took another sip of the coffee and kept her focus on the job she was hired to do.

The elevator passed the twentieth floor, and she swallowed the coffee, “There are many things about me you don’t know and I intend on keeping it that way. Now, what can you tell me about the new “Hollywood Royalty?”

He figured she would change the subject. This was something that peeked his interest but he knew the timing wasn’t right to even pursue the situation any further. “Sure. Well Lola Ferrari is Twenty-two years old-“

“Please tell me that isn’t her real name.” Laurel stated.

Tony shrugged his shoulders. “Your guess is as good as mine. She is supposedly in a relationship with Pop Sensation Damien Marx. To the media they were outed as being in a relationship last week because they were spotted together leaving a restaurant. In reality, Damien and Lola are not dating at all but Jordan has decided to create the illusion as if they are dating because he manages them both.”

Laurel rolled her hazel eyes at the mention of the man’s name. “Where is that sleazeball?”

“He called and said he’s running late due to traffic. But anyway-“. The elevator took a small bump causing the duo to look up at the digital screen and they saw they were now passing the ‘30^th^ floor.

“ – Your job is to prep them for the interview with Darlene Hart. You of all people know she can sniff a lie from a mile away.”

“Which is ironic since she had no idea for the past eighteen years, her husband was playing ‘Hide the Pogo Stick’ with their maid.” She held the coffee cup in her right hand and adjusted her handbag on her left shoulder as the elevator made its way toward the ‘35^th^´floor.

“This sounds like a piece of cake. I don’t know why Jordan hired me. This is amateur work.”

The elevator came to a slow stop and the doors opened. “Okay Tony, let’s go fake a Hollywood relationship.”

Laurel walked out of the elevator as if the long golden and silver tiled hallway was a catwalk. Tony followed quickly behind his boss admiring her confident walk, attitude and poise.

“They’re in the VIP Room which is the last door straight ahead.”

Laurel kept her eyes on the Golden VIP door as she made her way down the very long hallway.

She finally made it to the door in what felt like a lifetime and she knocked on it lightly.

The door opened and a handsome young man with thin arched eyebrows, pale white skin, light blue eyes and straight white pearly teeth smiled at the sight of her. “Hello, you must be Laurel Quinn. Welcome and please come in.”

She took the invitation and entered the spacious and beautiful suite. The details would make the other hotel occupants jealous, but Laurel wasn’t there to bask in the beauty and she didn’t care for the details.

“We don’t have enough time to prep before Darlene and her brainless cohorts make their way up here. Should we go over anything specific?” Laurel asked turning around to face Damien who closed the suite’s door after Tony entered.

“Not that I know of. What about you Lola?” Damien called out.

Laurel was born in the late seventies and she remembered growing up with male Pop Stars who had gimmicks that differed from each other. From Michael Jackson’s one glove to Prince’s ass less chaps, each artist stood out from the rest. But for some reason this new generation had male Pop Stars who all had thinly arched eyebrows, lip gloss, restless hair, foundation and skinny jeans. Not to mention the fact that Damien had a man bun on his head. Was anyone original anymore?

When the hell did man buns become a style? She found herself questioning this every time she went to MoonBucks to get her coffee every morning.

Her concentration on the male was cut short when a young woman walked out of the bathroom with a smile on her face. “What happen babe?”

Lola Ferrari looked exactly like her modelling pictures. She didn’t have any pores, moles, birthmarks or even a blemish on her porcelain like face. Her baby blue eyes were round, as if she was an anime character.

Her hair was multicolored. The right side was lavender and the left was a light pink. She too had her hair up in a bun. She also wore a floral green dress, which flowed with every move she would make. Her teeth were brighter than Damien’s- hell it was brighter than Laurel’s or even Tony’s teeth.

Damien passed the Crisis Manager and made his way toward Lola, “This is Laurel Quinn, she was hired by Jordan to prep us for the interview. Do you have any questions for her?”

Lola shook her head smiling widely at the Pop singer and she turned her attention over to Laurel. “Not at all. You see, when you are in love like myself, you don’t need to be prepped on anything. Every and any word that comes from my mouth actually comes straight from my heart.” She turned over to Damien and ran her fingers through his hair.

Laurel and Tony exchanged looks with each other as if they could telepathically send messages to one another. It didn’t take a genius to see how uncomfortable Damien was with Lola touching him.

“Um, Tony. Can you please take Damien out in the hall for a few minutes while us girls talk?” Laurel asked him with her tone sounding as innocent as a child wanting an expensive toy from her parents. Tony knew there was a motive behind this and he didn’t bother to ask.

“Of course. Come on mate.” Laurel’s assistant opened the door and as if a fire broke out in the bathroom, Damien ran out leaving just Laurel and Lola in the suite.

The Crisis Manager waited until Tony closed the door and she turned on her heels to face the oblivious love struck girl.

“What did Jordan tell you about this plan?” She asked.

The young model looked as if she was asked a question in a completely different language. “What plan?”

“The plan involving you and Damien. The plan where you two pretend you have been dating for a long time to fool the public into thinking you’re some kind of Hollywood royalty. Thus, getting endorsement deals, make up lines and bookings at whatever sad sap decides to keep garbage bags as couture.”

Lola shook her head at the words uttered by the woman as if she was lying. “That isn’t true. You’re just saying that to get me mad. I know how all you Publicists work.”

Apparently a Deity spent more time on her looks rather than her brain.” Laurel thought to herself as her face was plastered with a sinister smirk. “You are clearly mistaken here. Or delusional- eh either way, I blame all that on the countless bleach you put in your hair.” Laurel stated as she placed the coffee cup on a dresser that was also colored with a Golden coating. “You and Damien aren’t really a couple. Whenever there are cameras present you two have to get all lovey dovey for the public. But once you are both in private you and Damien are just mere pawns in this sad, yet cliché, faux Hollywood romance.”

The words that came out of Laurel’s mouth caused Lola to clench her teeth together angrily. Her sweet girl demeanor somehow disappeared and she stormed over to the Crisis Manager as if she was going to slap her and she stopped a few feet away from the woman. “Listen to me you sad pathetic old woman-”

Laurel raised her eyebrows at the young girl as if she had just lost her mind but she didn’t feel the need to defend herself against the porcelain young model. She just crossed her arms across her chest and listened to every word, clearly entertained by the tough façade Lola was putting on.

“-I don’t know what sad or twisted things are going through your mind, but Damien is my man! My man! He and I are not acting nor are we pretending. So I’d advise you to stop trying to break him and I up because you have a crush on him. Because if you even lay one of your ugly manicured fingers on him, I will kill you and get away with it. Do you understand me?” The fire in Lola’s eyes grew stronger as did her state of insanity. You would think her threat would make Laurel silent or even understanding…you would be wrong.

“Are you done?” Laurel asked impatiently as if the idea of Lola attacking her bored her to death.

The young model was baffled by Laurel’s reaction. “Now understand me sweety. I am not interested in your “man” because you don’t have one. Damien isn’t interested in you either on an emotional level, just a financial level because apparently to his manager, Jordan, dating you could open many doors to his future. But if you’d ask me, I would’ve rather faked him being Gay and dating that Pro Golfer who just came out the closet last week. While we’re also at it. I have no interest in dating your “man” because I date men not boys. Lastly, you may want to watch your tone with me, wannabe Jylie Kenner, because I will not only destroy you and watch your career burn down in flames. I will destroy you and make you relive the horror every single day of your life! Do I make myself clear?”

Throughout this speech-or threat- Laurel’s tone was calm and collective. She had anger yes, but she did one hell of a job not letting that anger show in her tone. It was then that Lola realized Laurel wasn’t like most women she came across. It was also then that she realized just how scary this woman could truly be.

Before Lola could respond or take another gulp, the suite’s door opened and Tony stood in the doorway looking in and catching Laurel’s attention. “I don’t mean to interrupt but Darlene is exactly five floors down.”

“Great!” Laurel said changing her tone to a sweet and innocent one. “Now Damien, I need you and Lola to hold hands but not too tightly. Whenever one of you speaks, it is imperative that the other person takes a lingering glance; it shows just how in love you two truly are. Also do not forget to mention that you guys have been in a relationship for six months.”

Damien entered the room and lowered his perfectly arched eyebrows, “Why six months?”

She turned to the Pop singer and addressed him. “A week romance makes this obvious to the public that this relationship is nothing but a publicity stunt. In order to make the public accept this façade is real, we have to go with six months. It makes it sound forbidden, raw and those scavengers will get even hungrier to know why you two have chosen to keep it a secret for this long.”

Damien understood what she meant and he was happy Jordan called Laurel. If it wasn’t for her, Damien didn’t think he would be able to pull this off.

“Now any questions before the Wicked Witch of Late Night comes?”

Damien shook his head and he glanced over at Lola who had a look of sadness and regret on her face. She didn’t bother making eye contact with the Auburn haired woman. She just shook her head slowly looking down at the floor.

Tony saw Lola’s reaction and he knew that something took place in the room. He had hoped it had to do with Laurel putting the model in her place because based on what Damien told him outside, Lola was as crazy as they came. A girl unstable as her, could ruin the entire plan; Tony prayed that wasn’t the case here.

“Okay!” Laurel clapped her hands together causing all three people in the room to flinch. “It’s show time!”

{The next section is the interview conducted by host of ‘Hart2Hollywood Star’ Darlene Hart.}:

[_ (DARLENE HART mid 30s- early 40’s is seated on a chair smiling as she gazes into the camera) _]

Darlene: “Hello and good morning San New City! I am your host Darlene Hart and I am beyond thrilled to be interviewing the couple that has taken the world by storm since last week. Damien Marx and Lola Ferrari.”

(We watch as DAMIEN and LOLA wave at the camera smiling. LOLA is holding DAMIEN’s right hand and they finally look like a couple smitten with each other.)

Darlene: “First off, Thank you so much for coming onto my show. It is such an honor to be in the same presence as Hollywood Royalty.”

Damien: (smiling shaking his head) “I wouldn’t necessarily say we are on that caliber. We are just two amazing people. Two creative people who- (he looks at LOLA)- were lucky enough to find each other.”

Darlene: (nods still smiling) “Let me ask the question that has everyone going crazy-wait before I ask. Did you guys know your fans are calling you ‘DALA’? ”

(Both LOLA and DAMIEN shake their heads clearly having no idea they had a ship name on social media.)

Lola: “Not at all. That is so amazing! Our fans have been very supportive of us since…well the tabloids leaked that picture of us yesterday having dinner at the Grove.”

Darlene: “Yes, that was my next question. Everyone wanted to know how you two met each other since, Damien is a huge Pop Star that sold more than 20 million records in his three year career span and Lola…you’re just… a model.”

Damien: “That is a great question Darlene. I was playing a show in Athens when my security received a letter from a young woman who wanted to meet me. I had no idea who this girl was. But her hand writing was beautiful. She wrote poetry that would make the strongest man cry-“

(Just as DAMIEN continued speaking, LOLA was staring at him listening and falling more in love with him with every word he said.)

Damien (cont’d)[+:+] “-Anyway, I told security I had to see who wrote me such a beautiful letter.”

Darlene: “And it was Lola?”

Damien: “Not at all. It was her younger sister.”

(DARLENE lets out a fake laugh that she had been famous for)

Damien: “But as it turned out Lola helped her write it.”

Darlene: “And when was this exactly?”

Lola: “Six months ago. We’ve been dating for six months.”

Darlene: (nods in shock) “That is amazing! Six months in this industry is like a decade. So make sure you two cherish each other.” (She looks into the camera) “We’re going to take a quick break and when we return, Damien will tell us all about his upcoming album.”

Director: “And cut!”

Laurel let out a sigh of relief in shock these two were able to pull off such an act.

Darlene got up from her seat and walked over to the director and they began discussing whether or not she looked amazing in the shots they just took.

Laurel walked over to the young couple who were chatting amongst themselves.

“How did we do?” Damien asked nervously.

“You did exceptionally well. I am so proud of both of you. Now your fans will know the truth and why you two chose to hide your love for so long.”

Damien lowered his eyebrows confused at her words.

Just an hour ago, she was yelling at him to act as if he could tolerate Lola and now she’s acting as if they were really a couple. He initially thought it was because Darlene was in the room but she wasn’t within earshot.

“I-I don’t understand-“

Laurel pointed to her own chest and Damien and Lola looked at it in confusion. It wasn’t until Lola looked at her own chest she realized they still had the body mic on. She nudged Damien and pointed to his mic and he gave her a nod finally understanding why she said those words.

Hollywood is a tricky industry. People will smile at your face and wish you well but when you’ve turned your back they’re secretly looking for ways to destroy you.

With interviews and microphones, it’s practically the same thing except as long as you have a body microphone on your chest, anything you say is on the record. Whether it was said on air or off.

A Hot Mic -is when a microphone is turned on and it records everything that is said in private- can hurt even the brightest of stars in this industry.

Laurel smiled widely. “It seems my job here is done. I want to thank you both for such an amazing job. I would hug you but…I just don’t want to.” She turned on her heels and walked out of the suite closing the door behind her.

Lola turned to Damien who was excited the interview was going exactly how he planned, “I can’t believe the fans already have a ship name for us. DALA…I mean it’s weird.”

“Eh, it’s better than Damola or Lamian. Plus this really means our fans are-“

“Hey Damien.” Darlene interrupted causing the young couple to look at her nervously. “I’m sorry to interrupt; I just have to say it is an honor to get to speak with you. I have been a fan of yours and I know it’s awkward because of my age but-“. She placed her right hand on the young man’s left shoulder and rubbed it smiling. “-I see a lot of talent in you and I know you will get far in this industry.”

Lola clenched her jaws together watching the scene unfold before her. The rage she had from before was slowly creeping right back in, like fire ants in an apartment.

*****************************

Laurel leaned against the wall of the elevator as the doors closed. Tony rubbed the back of his neck shaking his head. “That Lola is a crazy bat.”

“No crap Sherlock.” Laurel snapped as the elevator started to descend. “Did Damien tell you anything about her?”

Tony shook his head. “Only the fact she has been trying to seduce him daily. He has told her many times he wasn’t interested in her but she continued to make advances. Poor Lad has a super crush on his neighbor’s daughter and he’s stuck pretending to date a Bloke that should be locked up in a psych ward.”

Laurel knew this couple was a mistake. They were completely mismatched as far as interests go. Lola was a model who would party as if it was a morning routine and Damien was a Pop star that had more success than anyone before him did. In her mind, she thought of this less like a job and more as if she was a parent…something, she had to stop thinking about.

“If you ask me, I would make them break up. He deserves to just live his life doing what he does.” Tony stated sighing as if he had a long day of moving heavy furniture. But he was right. This job wasn’t like the previous ones which involved easy Public Relation tactics, what Laurel did was help a couple of young stars fake a relationship so they could easily make more money and get more fame.

“Yeah well this is all the work of Jordan Monroe.” Laurel’s tone sounded as if the name was like venom in her mouth.

The elevator slowed down and stopped in the lobby of the hotel. This shocked the duo as they were sure the ride down was a lot faster than the ride up.

The doors opened and Laurel walked out unto the lobby floor.

“Magnificent job Quinn!” A voice called out causing every hair on Laurel’s neck to stand.

“Say the Devil’s name and he appears.” She stated causing Tony to chuckle.

Walking towards them was a tall older man with silver dyed hair wearing a very tight suit. His face had not one wrinkle which didn’t shock Laurel because while he is Forty Nine years old, the man gets Botox injected into his face more times than a baby burps.

“I saw the interview and I am beyond pleased at your work. Those kids are more convincing than celebrities when it comes to their charity work.” Jordan waited for Laurel or Tony to laugh but none did and he cleared his throat.

“When was the last time you spoke to Damien? He doesn’t want to be in a relationship with her.”

Jordan looked at Laurel in schock,“He told you that?”

“He didn’t have to. The poor kid just wants to tour the world and be felt up by fan girls looking for something to tell their friends. He can’t do that if he’s dating Ms. Psychopath.”

Jordan’s face grew stern-well at least that’s what Laurel thought, it was hard to tell from looking at him.

“Lola is the top selling Model in Mexico and I know she can hit the U.S market and be on magazine covers. She can be the next Sofia Hayek.”

Laurel rubbed her forehead in frustration at the man who saw dollar signs rather than anything of importance. “You would honestly have both your clients be in a miserable relationship just so that you could cash in on them?”

“Let me tell you something Quinn. Damien got famous because of me. I uploaded that video of him singing in that cardboard box, I dubbed him the Homeless Singing Kid. He was never homeless or even miserable with his life. He is a friend’s kid that I promised to make famous. The public ate that crap up and now they will eat this up, making Lola a star and me a billionaire.”

“And you think playing Devil’s Advocate is worth billions of dollars on the unhappiness of your first client?”

Jordan didn’t need to think about the question because it was obviously true. “Don’t pretend that what you do is nobler than what I do. You and I turn scraps of garbage into these beautiful and perfect illusions that Hollywood and the idiots who worship these people eat up. Yes, Damien is miserable. Yes, Lola is a beautiful psychopath. But at the end of the day does any of that matter when they’re making millions in an hour?”

Jordan combed his fingers through his silver hair and he lowered his voice so none of the hotel staffers could hear the words he was saying. “Everyone sells their souls to make it in this industry and only the strong survive. Damien and Lola are both strong kids who will leave their legacy in this God Damn city and if you think-“

CRAAAAASSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jordan’s words were cut short by a loud crashing sound that came from outside of the hotel. The trio heard screams of horror erupt from the fans and photographers who were still camped outside.

“What the hell was that?” Laurel asked and she began to walk towards the entrance of the hotel with Tony and Jordan following her. She pushed the hotel doors open and a scene of chaos ensued.

Fans covered their eyes as they cried and screamed in horror, paparazzi took out their cameras and quickly took pictures of the dramatic scene as fast as they could, similar to sharks in a tank that were given a live seal to devour.

Laurel pushed through the crowd and she felt the world around her slow down as she saw what was causing the scene.

On the curb of the hotel was a parked Red Sports car and on the car was the dead body of Damien Marx. He was bloodied, bruised and staring lifelessly at the beautiful clear sky.

Tony couldn’t believe what he was looking at. The young man he was just speaking to an hour ago, the same young man that was telling him about how he hoped to make a Christmas album in memory of his mother; was now dead.

The chaotic scene looked like something out of a movie.

Inconsolable fans shocked, disgusted and sadden by the loss of their idol, hotel staffers scrambling and calling the ambulance and Jordan paralyzed and unable to move.

Laurel stepped closer to the car and she didn’t say anything. For a moment, no thoughts crossed her mind at the tragic scene.

This could’ve been avoided- it should’ve been avoided if Jordan had decided to do the right thing and focus on Damien. But it was too late now, too late to blame someone, too late to think of possible outcomes and most importantly; too late to feel guilty.

Laurel turned around and glanced up at the thirty-six floors of the hotel above her. She could see a figure looking down the balcony, a figure wearing a floral green dress watching the aftermath of what she just did.

Lola wanted to make a name for herself and to expand her portfolio here in San New City. Unfortunately, instead of being known as ‘The Beautiful Supermodel Lola Ferrari’, she will now be known as ‘Lola Ferrari, Number One Suspect In The Death of Damien Marx’.

At the end of the day, Lola got exactly what she wanted; fame.

Poser!

December 15^th^, 2017:

Laurel looked at her cellphone again and read the time. It was “6:15pm” and she had officially spent exactly three hours waiting inside of her parked Black Mercedes Benz. She had always wanted to take a tour of the Pixney Studios San New lot. It was where the biggest movies and television shows were filmed.

With more than one hundred studio lots present, each large studio contained sets that ranged from schools, oceans, bedrooms, streets, hospital rooms etc. That was the magic of filming! Everything was done on a lot that didn’t even require the actors or film crew to travel too far.

Although the visit was on Laurel’s bucket list, she unfortunately wasn’t there to take in the sight -as usual. She had work to do and the reason she was parked in front of Studio Lot 36 was because of her new client.

Action star Cody Posey contacted her a few days ago. He was supposed to visit her the other day at the Publicity! office, but he had a meeting. She had known Cody only through his many tv appearances and whatever was posted in the tabloids.

He was a twenty six year old actor famously known for his many action films like, “Ask Hard, Kick Harder”, “Iron Fingers”, “The Insocialables” and most recently he signed on to play the role of the famous comic book hero ‘Captain Canary’ . The gig was the biggest of his career and Laurel knew why. He would be racking in $4.5 Million from this movie as well as 70% of profits from the action figures sold. It was a fantastic deal, so she knew once he called her on the phone the situation was dire and it had to be exterminated quickly.

While he didn’t tell her much over the phone except where they could meet and the time he was available, that didn’t stop her from digging deeper and finding out more information on who this actor was and what he didn’t want the public to find out.

Apparently there was a twenty two year old from Texas who emailed him about her plans of telling the media he groped her at a hotel room in Downtown L.A, unless he could pay her $5.6 million for her silence. It was a sad attempt but not so uncommon especially amongst male stars who had bigger egos than trophy cases.

Laurel noticed a man walking out of the lot with a few women surrounding him and she quickly got out of the car closing the door. The cold wind was very rude as it blew along her bare legs causing her to shiver. Her outfit of choice consisted of a Violet designer dress hidden underneath a black designer trench coat which clearly wasn’t keeping her as warm as she had hoped it would. Of course Laurel wouldn’t be ‘Laurel Quinn aka Publicity!’ without her stiletto shoes.

She waited until the muscular man was finished signing autographs and taking selfies for the small group of fans. Cody was dressed in a red, black and blue Spandex super hero costume that was completed with a yellow cape.

Cody saw Laurel and he signed the last picture and he waved goodbye to the tourists who were all eagerly excited to tour the rest of the lot, in hopes of catching glimpse of the next big movie star.

“You must be my Crisis Manager. Laura Quint?”

Laurel gave him a smile and shook her head, “Very close but it’s Laurel Quinn.”

“Ah yes. I see. My apologies. It’s nice to meet you Laurel Quinn.” The 5’9 man outstretched his right hand and Laurel shook it slowly. Cody had short black hair that was brushed toward the back of his head and held together by what she could only assume was gel. His muscular body was defined thoroughly by the tight spandex costume he had on. However, once again her focus was on the job.

Laurel took back her hand and her smile turned into a serious expression as if she was just about to tell him news he didn’t want to hear. “Is there somewhere we can talk privately?”

Cody’s eyebrows lowered at her words and he chuckled nervously. “It’s that bad huh?”

She didn’t answer nor react to his question.

With the tourists frequenting the facility she didn’t want to take any chances just in case amongst the crowd was a Paparazzi trying to get the information he needed to expose Cody.

He realized the seriousness in her silence and he nodded at her. “My trailer is down the lot. We can talk there.”

“That would be perfect.”

“Alright. Right this way.” Cody smiled at her and he started to walk down the brightly lit lot. The group of tourists were nowhere to be seen, just fake palm trees, alien props, Spartan swords, golf carts, and racks of beautifully altered sequin dresses.

“I promise you, my trailer is heated.” Cody said softly as he continued walking.

If this was part of his charm, Laurel wasn’t interested. Then again his array of women were always Supermodels and blondes with bigger breasts and smaller hips. She highly doubted that Cody found her to be attractive. Even if he did, she still wasn’t interested.

The pair approached a large trailer that looked more like a six bedroom house.

“Perks of being a super hero.” Laurel stated causing Cody to chuckle. He pulled the knob of the door and opened it for her. She walked up the six steps and gasped at the beautiful sight. A large black leather sofa, a kitchen set that would fit at least half the cast of any film, three doors that probably led to other bedrooms and what she hoped was a bathroom and a set of stairs toward her right.

“Yeah it’s not really my ideal living quarters, but it’s eco-friendly.”

Cody closed the door and followed Laurel up the stairs. He didn’t want to wait any longer for whatever news Laurel had. “Okay, so break it to me. How bad is this?”

Laurel sat on the sofa and crossed her right leg over her left, “Very bad. She’s threatening to go to BMZ with this story tonight at eight unless you can wire her the money.”

“Did you at least find out anything about her? Like maybe she’s some con artist looking to make a quick buck on the expense of ending my career?”

Laurel gave him a nod. “Well for starters, her name is Elsa Adler. She’s from Texas and is a student majoring in Journalism-a huge red flag. Other than that, I had my assistant hack into her social media accounts, phone and lap top- basically anything where she shares her personal life and all I got were just the emails she sent you regarding your altercation in the hotel.”

Cody shook his head and he leaned against the sink of the kitchen angry, bitter and ashamed. “Dammit!”

“ Look, I have a few ideas on how I can fix this and make it go away-along with her- but I need you to be one hundred percent honest with me. Can you do that?”

Cody didn’t respond to her as quickly as she had hoped. It was clear he was filled with regret but she couldn’t do much unless he was honest with her and tells her everything she needed to know. If he was going to lie about the situation, he was going to make things a whole lot worst for everyone involved including himself.

He let out a frustrated sigh and he nodded finally giving in. “Alright. I can do that.”

“Good. Okay let’s start with how you two met.”

Cody pulled out a chair from underneath the dining table and he placed it a few feet across from Laurel. He sat on it and started to recall the moment he met the young woman.

“It was three months ago. I had just wrapped a long day of shooting and I checked into the hotel. Normally I would sleep in the trailer, but I was off the next day and wanted to tour L.A. She was there at the hotel bar and she was very friendly. She didn’t seem to be threatening or even look as if she was capable of something like this.”

“Neither was Jeffrey Dahmer and look how that worked out.” Laurel stated not missing a beat.

Cody continued, “Anyway, she and I spent at least an hour talking about the movie industry. I was completely taken aback by how grounded she was.”

Laurel leaned forward listening to every word Cody was saying. Her position was calm and poised and she actually looked like a talk show host. It was very amusing to anyone looking from the outside in at this scene.

“Didn’t you find it a bit suspicious a civilian took interest in how your day went? Especially in a hotel bar?” It was a question that Laurel had the right to ask and it was one that made sense to Cody.

“I had my suspicions but then I remembered-I..-“. Cody choked up and he started to stammer with his words. He wasn’t being totally honest with Laurel as much as she needed him to be in order to fix the situation at hand.

As Laurel opened her mouth to speak Cody finally blurted out what he needed to say. “My manager pays these girls- wannabe actresses looking for their next big break, models who barely speak English and even former Adult film stars. He pays them to be seen holding my hand, cuddling me, kissing me and even just seen leaving somewhere together. It’s the only way to keep this ‘Bad Boy’ persona.”

“Did you ever sleep with these women?”

Cody shook his head quickly, “Not at all! Whenever we were in the hotel room, always in the Presidential Suite, they would get Spa treatments and room service. I would sleep on the couch while they slept on the bed. The next morning I would pay them $25k and give them a Confidentiality Agreement for them to sign. Then they’ll go their way and I go mine.”

Laurel had to admit the plan was genius. She didn’t know much about this actor other than by reputation which in itself was interesting because he was perceived as a womanizer. Now she knew why. She wasn’t really surprised because all of Hollywood was an illusion.

“She seems rather vengeful for a woman who could’ve potentially received a huge pay out.”

“That’s the thing Ms.Quinn. She wasn’t hired at all by Alfonso my manager. I took her up to my room to pay her and that’s when….she started to grab me and grope me.” He stopped speaking as if he had a disgusting taste in his mouth.

Laurel lowered her voice to a softer state as if she was scared of being overheard although it was only them two in the trailer. “Cody…did she rape you?”

Cody met her gaze and he slowly shook his head. “N-no not at all. I was able to push her away softly…I just…I told her…I wasn’t interested and she started to cry blaming herself for being unattractive and that wasn’t the case. It’s just…-..I-I can’t do this!” He rose up from the chair and leaned against the golden and black marble countertop.

Laurel rolled her eyes clearly irritated at the theatrics this actor was displaying rather than just getting to the point. He was oblivious to the fact that time was running out on his career and he needed to get his act together if he truly wanted her to fix this mess.

“On a normal day I would let you have your moment in the spotlight by huffing and puffing and leaving me hanging on your every word, but today is not the day! You need to save that dramatic bullcrap for the big screen.”

Cody turned to her slowly and he took in another deep breath trying to find the proper words to say. He nodded his head and slowly started to speak. “I told her…I told her the truth. I didn’t want to sleep with her because…I’m Gay.”

Laurel’s eyes widened at his confession. The reasoning behind his manager’s publicity stunt made sense to her now. She was wondering why a handsome man would have trouble finding a girl to settle down with, it wasn’t because he was secretly married-as she initially thought- but because he was Gay!

She finally managed to break the silence between them, “Does anyone else know besides your manager and me?”

“Yes. My family and close friends do.”

“Okay, that’s good. Congratulations on being who you are. That is more important here especially s-“

BING!

Laurel took out her cellphone from the right pocket of her trench coat, she looked at the screen and in a few seconds she let out a small gasp. “Crap!”

Cody felt a lump in his throat as she reacted that way.

When his friend Lil Holler referred her to him, he was expecting a heartless and cold woman who would do anything to get the job done. But her reaction to her phone made her seem human like and it really scared him. “Is everything okay?”

“Elsa…she’s live on BMZ right now. She’s telling them you raped her.”

Cody let out a disgusted gasp. “Are you serious!?”

“It’s fine.” Laurel stated dismissing his worries. “We can beat her at her own game. She’s clearly a woman scorned because you didn’t make any sexual advances towards her. You can’t go live and tell everyone you weren’t interested because your reputation proves otherwise…So you can come out of the closet. Tell your fans the truth.”

“Absolutely not!”

Laurel once again rolled her eyes at his response and she quickly jumped to her feet. “Look, I get it that you’re nervous about this new step in your life and it seems so sudden but we don’t have much of a choice. Hollywood forgives drunks, crack heads and cheaters. What they don’t forgive are Rapists. That is one label you cannot get back from! Sure, coming out of the closet is a cliché, but it’s who you really are and being Gay is certainly not the end of your career. Especially in this industry.”

“It isn’t that easy!” He snapped back. “I’m an action star. Me coming out means, persecution, being labeled a ‘sissy’. No one will see me as a true hero.”

Laurel glared at him as if he had just insulted her. “You’re not even an action star. While we’re here chit chatting your stunt double is on set being thrown into a wall. All you do is star in the film and read lines off of a script.”

Cody shook his head in disgust at her words. “You’re basically forcing me out of the closet! How the hell can you sleep at night?”

“With Melatonin” She stated. “ And I am not forcing you out of any closet! She is!” Laurel played the live feed on her phone and she showed it to him.

On the screen was a beautiful blonde woman with black mascara running down her porcelain like cheeks. She was crying and wiping her tears with a white tissue. “All I did was tell him how I loved his movies. My brother is his number one fan…and…and he promised to give me a signed headshot for my brother. So we went to his hotel room and…and he forced himself on me. He had his hands under my skirt and started kissing my neck. I told him I wasn’t interested and he…he threw me on the bed!” Elsa stopped speaking and began crying.

Laurel exited from the screen in disgust. “You have to admit, all those reruns of Special Victims Unit do come in handy don’t they?”

Cody felt his blood boil and he slammed his hands on the counter angrily. Laurel flinched and she brushed a strand of her auburn colored hair back. “You need to retaliate as soon as possible. We don’t have enough time before this sad story goes viral.”

She was right-no matter how much Cody didn’t want to admit it. With every second he spends wallowing in his truth is another share Elsa’s false account gets.

Tears formed in his eyes and his palms became sweaty. “Alright…I’ll do it.”

“Great!” Laurel stated trying not to sound too excited. “You’ll need to change out of that costume and wear a neutral color shirt. Nothing with designs, it’ll take the focal point away from what you’re saying. Also, try to take a few beats in between your words, that way it looks as if you are truly getting emotional. I can film this with my cam-“

“No.” He interjected causing Laurel to stop speaking. “No offense, I appreciate everything you’ve done…I just need to do this myself. Please.”

“Oh okay.” She gave him a sincere smile. “I’ll be outside in my car. Good luck and no matter what you think, you’re actually doing something amazing.” She walked down the stairs of the trailer and opened the door leaving Cody by himself.

He knew after he makes the video his life is going to change for the better…or worse. Either way he was prepared for it. It was time he stopped living in denial. It was time to face everything.

Five Minutes Later:

Laurel took a bite out of a cherry licorice she was able to steal from the Craft Service table of Lot 32 as she sat warmly in her car watching Cody’s livestream on her cellphone.

He thankfully listened to her and was able to put on a red shirt that covered his costume and his black hair was still in its super hero phase but she didn’t expect anything less. If he found a way to plug in that he was filming the new superhero film he would definitely win this mess.

That’s how life works. Every day we wake up and get ready for a new day with the same routine. Unless you’re an actor like myself, then you wake up wondering ‘who am I today?’. But I am sitting here in my trailer of my new movie to tell you all that…I…um…I

“Come on Cody. Deep breaths. Breathe in and breathe out.” Laurel said as if he could hear her from the other side of the phone.

Cody was visibly nervous and he looked away from the camera trying to calm his nerves down. Until twelve seconds later he looked back at the camera no longer nervous and he let out a deep breath, finally able to tell the world the truth.

“-That I, Cody Posey…am…regretfully sorry that I raped Elsa Adler.”

“Son of a bitch!” Laurel opened the car door still with the phone in her hand and she ran down the lot as her stilettos echoed throughout the empty lot. As she did her best to run as fast as she could, LiveBook was still playing on her phone.

“It was not my intention to hurt her or to make her feel inferior and for that I hate myself. That night in question, I was sad, disgruntled and drunk. Because of this, I am entering myself into rehab for a month to fix my problem. I am sorry for letting my fans down and sorry to those I have hurt. And to Elsa and her family, I am forever sorry. Thank you and God Bless.”

Laurel finally reached Cody’s trailer, yanked open the door and ran up the small stairs where she found him logging off the webcam. “What the hell did you just do?” Her words were filled with anger and confusion.

Cody got up from the dining table and he turned his laptop off, “I did what I thought was right.”

Laurel gasped, “Right? You just confessed to being a rapist. There is no right in any of this!”

He nodded his head agreeing with her and he took off his red shirt revealing his costume underneath. “That is true Ms. Quinn. But I’d rather be known all throughout Hollywood as a Rapist rather than a Faggot.”

The word visibly affected Cody when he heard it come of his own mouth but his mind was made up. He cleared his throat and pointed to the door. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to take a shower and get ready for bed. Have a good night and drive safely.”

No words could form in Laurel’s mind or even in her mouth. She had never witnessed anyone destroy their own careers willingly.

She turned on her heels, walked down the stairs of the trailer and closed the door behind her leaving Cody alone with his regret.

As Laurel made her way back towards her car, her cellphone began to ring in her hand. She saw the caller ID had Tony’s name on it and she answered it, “What?”

“Quinn, I need you to come back to the office. Meryl’s here, looking for you.”

“Are you serious? Can’t you tell her I’m busy with another client, because I am really not in the mood for her crap.”

Tony’s voice cracked. “I-I did and she said she isn’t leaving. Quinn, just get back here asap!”

“Fine! I’ll be there in five minutes.” She hung up the cellphone and stormed over to the driver’s seat of her car opening the door. “I fear this night is going to get worse.”

The Office of Publicity! (Six Minutes Later):

The elevator stopped on the third floor of the private building on 3260 Amethyst Road. A building where Publicity! has called home for the past three years.

Laurel quickly walked out of the elevator to find Tony standing by the doorway leading into the spacious office.

“Where is she?”

Tony looked at her. “Inside your office, but wait-“

Laurel ignored his words and she stormed into the office passing by the beautifully decorated waiting area, which was painted pink and black, consisted of a few pink and black leather recliners, a large plasma television screen, a table which always had the best food catered from the Italian shop down the street and a pink and black decorated Christmas tree.

She pushed open her office door to find the Fifty-eight year old actress standing by her desk watching herself on the television screen.

“Oh Dahling! Can you believe I was about your age when I did this film?” She asked not taking her eyes off the black and white style movie currently playing.

Laurel placed her hands on her own hips and cocked her head to the side. “You cannot barge into my office without an appointment. I don’t care who you are!”

Meryl Hopkins paid the Crisis Manager no mind and she kept her eyes glued to the screen. Laurel only saw the back of Meryl’s long white and silver hair and for some odd reason the woman had on a pink silk robe.

“Meryl are you listening to me?” The actress still didn’t flinch and Laurel clenched her jaws together. After what unfolded in the past thirty minutes, the last thing she needed was an incoherent Hollywood actress thinking she was better than any and every one she came in contact with because she had a few Oscars under her belt.

“Meryl!” Laurel finally shouted causing the woman to break out of her hypnotic stare. She slowly turned around to face Laurel and the Crisis Manager couldn’t believe what she was looking at.

On the front of Meryl’s robe was a large bloodstain and on the right side of her cheek were splatters of blood and her eyes were bloodshot as if she was crying.

“Oh my God. Are you okay?” Laurel asked walking over towards Meryl.

“Oh yes Dahling I’m fine. This isn’t my blood…. It’s my husband’s.”

The statement made Laurel worry even more. “Your husband? Where is he?”

“Home. On the bedroom floor dead. I hit him over the head with my Oscar.” She paused and met Laurel’s eyes. “Oh by the way! Did you hear Dahling? I was just nominated for another Oscar award.” The woman’s tone changed from traumatic to calm and proud within a matter of seconds. All Laurel could do at this point was run her fingers through her own hair in frustration.

Moments ago, Laurel feared her night was going to get worse, but she soon discovered…spoken fears actually do come true.

Elijah

[The sound of a baby crying woke up Laurel from her deep slumber. She sat up on the bed and looked over to her left side to see her husband David Jimberson sleeping soundly. She had hoped he would get up and check on the baby, but he was a hard sleeper. Not even an Earthquake, Typhoon or Tidal Wave would wake him up.

She rolled her eyes and kicked off the quilt rising up from the bed and made her way out of her bedroom leading down into a small hallway, she made a quick right turn walking into the baby’s room and she smiled as she saw the ten-month-old baby boy standing up in his crib.

The sweet baby boy stopped crying as he saw his mother enter the room and he pouted raising his arms up to her.

Aww is my Angel hungry?” She asked smiling and walking over to him. She picked him up and winced in disgust. “You smell like your father.”

Elijah Zachary Quinn giggled as Laurel carried him over to the changing table located a few feet away from the crib.

Unknown to Laurel, as her husband slept soundly, her bedroom window was quietly being unlocked from the outside by someone that wasn’t invited.]

December 16^th^, 2017:

“Laurel?” the sound of Tony Vincetti’s voice caused the Crisis Manager to snap out of her daydream. She got up from the sofa she was seated on and walked over to the hallway where she saw Tony descending the stairs holding a corpse wrapped in plastic over his right shoulder. On his hands he wore black leather gloves and on his head was a clear colored shower cap, which kept any falling hair follicles at bay.

“Is everything cleaned up?” Laurel asked not batting an eye.

The handsome Brit nodded as he got off the last bottom step. “His DNA is gone, as well as hers. The Oscar is bleached. Her bedroom is the cleanest room in this house.”

“Perfect. Where are you dumping him?” She asked watching as Tony began to walk towards the kitchen. He paused and turned around to face her.

“Layung Beach. There is a long drop on the edge of the cliffs where idiots jump off in hopes of nose-diving into the water. Out of ninety, only about ten percent actually make it in. The rest end up hitting their heads or worse on the rocks below.”

Laurel nodded her head agreeing that Tony’s decision was a smart one.

When the body of Twenty Two year old Micah Henderson is found in the ocean from the Coast Guards, they would just assume he jumped off the cliff. It was an amazing idea!

“Alright but be careful.”

Tony gave her a smirk and wink, “Aren’t I always?” He turned on his heels and continued walking into the kitchen of Meryl Hopkin’s five-bedroom Brownstone heading towards the backdoor where he secretly parked his black Mini Cooper, so the neighbors would not see anything. Although it was ‘4:13am’ on a Saturday they still couldn’t take any chances.

Laurel made her way down the palace like hallway into another living room decorated with old Victorian style paintings.

A fireplace was lit as it filled the room with an aroma of burning fabric that made Laurel a little light headed. In the far right corner was a glass case filled with Five Oscars, three Tonys and five Emmy Awards; along with three fashion dolls modeled after Meryl Hopkin’s iconic 18th century dresses from the film ‘A Love Noir Of The Border’.

Seated on the black leather sofa was the fifty eight year old actress sipping a glass of Whiskey. Her eyes were on the cackling red and orange flames. She no longer had on the pink silk robe she visited Laurel with, as that was the first thing the Crisis Manager threw into the flames as soon as they arrived home. Her long silver and grey hair was in a fishtail braid that slung over her right shoulder.

Laurel had many philosophies in life that helped her get through difficult situations. Especially in her line of work, being able to find something to believe in was important. But one philosophy that always helped her was ‘Rip the band aid right off and never wait for the next ball to drop’. It was important for her to be twenty five steps ahead of the game, because once you fall down, Hollywood would waste no time and they will step right over you and move onto the next big thing. A sad but true fact.

She walked into the room as quietly as she could but her heels were not helping the cause. “What the hell happened upstairs?”

The actress took her last sip of Whiskey and turned away from the flames to look at Laurel. “Have you ever been married, Dahling?”

Laurel didn’t say anything, she instead responded with a simple nod.

“How long were you married for?”

Laurel wasn’t a fan of revisiting the past. She believed the past is behind us all and no matter where we go in life we are always faced with it trying to get our attention, but once we turn around to face our past; that’s when we lose all aspects of the present and lose visibility of the future.

“Six years.” She muttered hoping it was the last of that topic.

Meryl gave her a simple nod and asked, “Why did it end?”

The question caused Laurel to sit on the armrest of another black sofa located just a few feet away from the one Meryl was seated on. “We aren’t here to talk about my personal life. I’m here helping you get away with murder and to clean up your mess! I’d like to get back on track and have you tell me what happened in that bedroom that made you kill your husband.”

The thought of how Meryl met her now deceased husband Micah made her smile to herself. She rose up from the sofa and walked over to a mini bar located on the other side of the room. The actress had on a Kimono that reminded Laurel of the knock offs sold down by Fuller Road in Downtown San New. She watched her carefully as the woman poured herself another glass of Whiskey.

“Micah was cast to play the role of ‘Ian Sanders’ a poor orphan child that was going to die. My character ‘Elena’ had only one scene with him but…Micah won me over. Not because he was young because I’m not a Pedophile. He was so mature and beyond his years when he spoke. He’s actually the only person I knew that could tell the difference between a painting by Manet and Monet.”

Laurel shifted on the armrest and watched Meryl down the whiskey as if it was water. She swallowed it without making a sour face or even indicating that it was bitter.

“ -Anyway. He and I started speaking long after we finished filming. Every time he had an audition he would confide in me and ask me for advice...It wasn’t until he turned seventeen that he proposed to me. I vowed not to marry him until he was of legal age. And before you judge-“ Meryl quickly turned around and pointed her right index finger at Laurel. “- He and I never got intimate until the wedding night when he was officially legal!”

The Crisis Manager did have her suspicions on how the relationship worked considering their thirty-year age gap but it wasn’t really any of her business what they did in the bedroom. Well, aside from the murder of course.

“Okay you got that off your chest. Now, tell me why he was lying in your bedroom with his head bashed in.”

Meryl placed the empty glass down on the coffee table and she walked over toward the fireplace, where she stared at the hypnotic flames as if it was a Siren singing to her.

“Micah came home the other day drunk…he had never consumed alcohol before. At least not that I knew of. He was angry that I refused to pay him the money he wanted and he vowed to tell his agent everything about us. He was belligerent…and I was frightened.”

Laurel lowered her eyebrows listening to the words carefully. “Did he hit you?”

Meryl shook her head, “He never laid a finger on me in such a manner! He was just so-so angry and I tried to calm him down. I did. But then…then he took my phone and threw it against the wall smashing it into pieces. Which was why I went over to your office instead of calling you.”

“What happened next?”

“Well, he grew angry that the phone being in pieces didn’t affect me emotionally so he started to talk about how he doesn’t love me anymore…because I’m old and disgusting…then he said he hated me because…I would never be able to bear him a child.”

The words cut Meryl deep as she started to reminisce about the incident and how much hate he had in his eyes that resulted in his venomous words used to hurt her.

Laurel sensed the sadness in the woman’s voice and she lowered hers trying her hardest to sound sympathetic. “I know this is hard Meryl, but I need you to tell me what happened next.”

The woman turned around facing Laurel. Her eyes were filled with tears of sadness and regret. “I got mad. Real mad…I grabbed my Oscar and hit him over the head knocking him to the floor….He cried and started swearing at me…So I hit him again and again and again! Until I knew he was dead.”

The emotions Meryl had been keeping inside were starting to crack the emotional wall she had built up and she finally broke down falling to her knees in sadness. “Oh my God! What have I done?! I killed my husband! The cops are going to find out and then I’m over. Done!”

Laurel wanted to console the woman but she didn’t know how. Destroying scandals, fixing reputations and getting people to do what she wanted were her strong suits; being able to show emotions or consoling someone in an emotional state wasn’t. All she could do was clear her throat and speak.

“Tony is going to dump Micah at Layung Beach and make it look like his death was accidental. I was able to call a few attorneys I know and they helped sever all legal ties you and him had that could be traced back to you. Meaning any ventures you had are expunged and gone. The marriage license as well. Since you and he were married on a cruise ship I was able to track the records down there and in City Hall. Everything is gone and nothing can be traced; and since I spoke to his closest family and friends no one even knew about his personal life other than the fact he was an actor.”

The words didn’t do much to console Meryl at all. Sure she was happy this couldn’t be traced back to her, but at the same time she knew that she killed the only person she ever loved and now she had no one.

“Look, Meryl I can-“

“No!” The woman stated rising to her feet and drying her eyes. “I would like to be left alone. Is that alright?”

Laurel didn’t need much convincing. She gave Meryl a sincere smile and nodded. “No problem. But don’t do anything stupid.” She grabbed her purse and walked out of the living room.

She could’ve stayed over but this was a pro-bono situation and truthfully after what just happened less than eight hours ago with Cody Posey, she needed to go home and sleep it off.

She walked over to the front door and opened it making her way down the stairs to her car, leaving Meryl crying on the living room floor in regret and sadness. But worse of all? Guilt.

Thirty Minutes Later:

Laurel’s drive home was a quiet ride where she spent a majority of it just thinking about the last twenty-four hours. She had the car radio on and heard that Cody Posey was fired from the set of the super hero film and was admitted into sex rehab. All of this could’ve been avoided if he took her advice and just came out of the closet to be himself. Live a happy and wonderful life without lying or pretending, he did enough of that in the movies. Then the guilt train pulled away from Cody and arrived at Meryl’s station.

She couldn’t help but wonder if Micah would still be alive if she had helped Meryl with the divorce he was extorting her with.

Laurel needed sleep but more than anything she needed a shower to wash away the stress of the day and she was able to do just that. No phone calls, no emails and no interruptions.

She came out of the steamy bathroom wearing a long white shirt and black sweatpants. Her hair wasn’t fully dry but it was dried to the point that she didn’t have water dripping down her face.

Talking with Meryl brought up a very painful memory. A memory that Laurel had hoped she wouldn’t have to relive again because she buried it in the back of her mind. She leaned against the kitchen counter and took a sip of wine.

The night of December 24th , 2015 changed her life in ways that she couldn’t imagine. That night she was awoken by her son Elijah crying. Usually her and her husband-an accountant- alternate days where Laurel would wake up and tend to Elijah on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and David had Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Since Elijah was no longer being breastfed there wasn’t any reason to have Laurel wake up seven days a week in the middle of the night, unless of course the baby only wanted his mother.

Laurel had just opened Publicity! and she needed the sleep especially since she was about to take on one of the biggest clients ever. David didn’t mind his wife being busy because he was debating on changing the direction of his life by retiring from accounting and being a stay at home dad. It was a decision that he was reluctant to bring up to Laurel at the time because he was raised to be old fashioned and have the women stay at home and tend to the house as the men worked, but Laurel didn’t support that idea one bit.

While Elijah cried because of a dirty diaper, Laurel got up because David wasn’t budging. She changed his diaper and sung him a lullaby until he fell back to sleep. Once she heard the little angel snore, she gave him a soft peck on his forehead and placed him back in the crib. She walked out and slowly closed the door to his bedroom.

Her next move was to go back to bed and sleep the rest of the hours off before her alarm clock could interrupt her slumber.

She walked into the room and saw a man wearing a black ski mask enter through her window. She quickly tried to wake up David but it was too late, the masked man was already inside. He pointed a black handgun at her and she quickly bent down, grabbed one of her infamous stiletto shoes and flung it at the man. The force of her throwing arm and her exact aim caused the shoe to crack the man in his head and he dropped the gun.

Laurel ran and tackled the man to the floor, she angrily punched him in the face a few times until she heard something crack under his mask. David heard the man’s scream and he woke up mortified at the scene. He jumped out of bed and pulled his wife off the intruder and he tried to make sense of what was happening. Unfortunately in doing so, he dropped his guard and the intruder picked up the gun and fired twice toward Laurel’s direction. She quickly dove to the floor and David punched the man in the face, this caused the intruder to run out of the window and onto the fire escape causing David to chase after him.

She ran out of her bedroom and picked up the landline with the intention to call the police but she froze as she spotted two bullet holes in the door of Elijah’s bedroom.

“No, no, no. no.” Her heart felt as if it stopped beating. She opened the door a little to a scene no mother should ever have to witness.

One of the bullets was stuck in the mirror leaving it cracked, but the other bullet…it ricocheted somehow and -

Laurel fell to her knees and let out a painful scream indicating to her neighbors someone was shot.

Laurel’s trip down memory lane was cut short when her cellphone started ringing and she placed the glass of wine down and saw ‘Tony’ on her caller ID. She quickly picked it up.

“Yes?”

“Hey Quinn. I dropped off the package.” Tony said on the other line as driving noises could be heard, indicating he was talking to her via speakerphone.

“Great. Thank you so much! You did excellent work today.”

There was a small pause from Tony’s side. He was probably basking in the praise he just received from his boss. Getting her to admit someone did an amazing job was like getting her to admit that she secretly enjoyed listening to classical music…which she didn’t.

“Well thank you Quinn. Did Hell freeze over?” He asked jokingly causing her to smile and shake her head.

“Oh shut up!”

“Are you hungry? I know this amazing Pancake house down the block from you. I can pick something up for you if you’d like?”

“That’s sweet of you Tony. But I think I’m going to head to bed. These past few hours drained me. I’ll see you in the office tomorrow-well at least in a few hours since it’s already a new day.”

“That is true. Okay then in that case Ms. Quinn, goodnight.”

“Goodnight Tony.” She hung up the phone and placed it on the counter taking the last sip of her wine emptying the entire glass.

Once she was done, she grabbed her cellphone and turned off the kitchen light making her way towards her bedroom finally able to get some much-needed sleep.

Most of the citizens in San New City were sleeping. They were all dreaming of something amazing or of something bad. Streets were empty except for parked cars, night workers at the hospital, party goers all seeking another party to attend and stray cats looking for food.

But right across the building where Laurel called home, was a figure. A figure wearing a black hood looking up at the window on the twenty-fifth floor and they watched as the light turned off.

The window belonged to Laurel’s bedroom. Nothing could be seen from the street but black and pink curtains and a single fake white rose that stood by the windowsill.

The mysterious person didn’t need to see through the curtains because they were excited to know that window was one of many in Laurel’s apartment and their mission of finding her was finally completed.

It might not be today, tomorrow, the next day or in the upcoming weeks, but the fact remained; this mystery person was going to make sure Laurel Quinn, doesn’t get to see her next birthday.

Exposed!

December 17^th^, 2017 [*:*]

Lola Ferrari walked down the stairs of the San New Court House wearing a black dress. It wasn’t ideally form fitting for her stature but it was appropriate considering the fact she was on trial for the murder of her “boyfriend” Damien Marx.

But strangely she wasn’t being interviewed within the courthouse, instead the paparazzi and numerous reporters met her at the bottom of the stair case in front of the building. Her multicolored hair was now a light blonde and she wore minimal make up on her face, although it didn’t take away from the fact she was still beautiful.

I want to thank all of my fans who have supported me through this tragic time in my life…I don’t know where I would be without them. The judge found that there was no evidence that suggested I, in any way pushed my boyfriend Damien Marx off that balcony. Sadly, the detectives found a suicide note in his pocket when he-…when he jumped. I miss him so much…He was my heart!”

Laurel muted the television screen in her office and shook her head at the live coverage of Lola crying for the camera. “Well that doesn’t seem fishy at all.” She stated sarcastically to herself.

“Knock, Knock!” Tony sang out standing in her doorway holding two large coffee cups in his hands.

Laurel turned around on her throne sized office chair and smiled at the beautiful sight of her coffee cup. “You always know how to spoil me don’t you?”

Tony gave her a wink and walked over to her handing her the cup his left hand was holding. “I’ve had practice.”

She smiled and opened the lid quickly and took a long sip moaning softly at how delicious the bitter coffee was. It had no sugar and no milk but it was a delicious vanilla flavored coffee that shockingly, only the bodega in Tony’s neighborhood knew how to make.

Tony smiled at her and he had a question that weighed heavily on his mind. The question was one he didn’t want to ask because he wasn’t sure what the answer would be, considering he has known Laurel for more than two years now he figured he would ask anyway. “How did you sleep after…you know?”

Laurel swallowed the delicious coffee and she gave him a nod slowly. “I slept well. Not that I had fun with my client being labeled as a rapist or helping Hollywood’s royalty get away with murder. But that’s my job, so I can’t really complain.”

It was a very trying day that drained Laurel emotionally but this wasn’t her swan song. It wasn’t the end of Publicity!, it was just a shocking realization at just how crazy people were to maintain their reputation in an industry that could potentially forget their name and existence by the end of the week.

Tony glanced at the muted television screen and he saw Lola crying in front of the cameras. “What the bloody hell is she doing out of prison?”

“Oh that’s the fun part. Apparently the Judge dropped the murder charge because they conveniently found a suicide note in Damien’s pocket.”

Tony let out a chuckle. “Are you serious? He died three weeks ago and now they found this supposed note? That psycho has a lot more tricks in her bleached hair than she’s leading us on to believe.”

“Well, you know what they say about the crazy ones. They are always eighty steps ahead of the game.”

It was a statement that Tony couldn’t help but agree with. He was seconds away from telling Laurel some exciting news when he heard the door to the waiting room open.

Laurel and Tony exchanged glances. She was booked with appointments throughout the day but none of which were at ‘7:30am’.

“Who the hell can that be?” She asked quietly.

“Helloooooooooooooo! Is anyone here? I needs help!” a high feminine voice shouted causing Laurel to roll her eyes in irritation.

“Stay here, I’ll find out what’s going.” Tony walked out of Laurel’s office and made his way into the waiting area.

Tony watched as a Blonde woman entered the waiting area wearing dark tinted sunglasses. The woman reminded him of a parody of a Halloween costume. She had on a pink leather cat suit and her blonde hair had a streak of pink on both sides of her head.

“Hello and Good morning! My name is Anthony, how can I help you today?”

The middle-aged woman let out a dramatic gasp and she placed her hands over her chest. “Oh my God! I had no idea San New City imports their help from the UK. My servants are Mexico and it’s hard to communicate with them, because they only speak Mexican. So if I don’t understand you it’s okay because I speak a little bit of UK-nese.”

Tony had to take a slow sip of his light and sweet coffee before he could form any words together at the clearly delusional and racist woman standing in front of him. He swallowed the coffee and smiled widely at her. “How can I be of service?”

The woman sucked her teeth at Tony’s question. “I’m here to get a Pap Smear.” She let out a loud high-pitched giggle that would make a dog howl and want to become deaf all at the same time. “I’m kidding! I’m here because I need help, obvi!”

Laurel heard a weird sound as if someone was strangling a cat and she got up from her chair placing the coffee cup on her desk. She walked toward the doorway as her stiletto shoes echoed throughout the office. Her outfit was different from usual; she wore a pink silk top and a black skirt.

Tony heard the clanking sound of her heels and he let out a sigh of relief causing the woman to glare at him. Although she wore dark sunglasses it didn’t take a genius to know he was getting a dirty look.

Laurel approached the duo and she smiled at the new guest. “Hello and Good morning. Welcome to Publicity!, my name is Laurel Quinn and I am a Crisis Manager. How can I be of service to you?”

“I need your help Laura, someone is like totally blackmailing me and they are asking for nude photos of me.”

“Um…I’m going to need some more information here.”

The woman took off her glasses and revealed her heavily glittered pink eye shadow and baby blue eyes. She couldn’t have been more than thirty six years old at least, unless she was younger than that but the make-up did a horrible job covering up her age.

“Okay, so I was totally shopping at the Dulce Amore store over at Fifth Avenue two years ago. She had just unveiled her Fall collection at Paris that same month and I saw this beautiful dress that had 24 karat gold buttons and fur trimmings all along the sleeves and neckline. So I went in to purchase it and the unthinkable happened.-“

“Your credit card was declined?” Tony asked completely intrigued by this story.

“No!” The singer replied.

“You found out the sweater was the ugliest piece of apparel ever made since some loon thought Polka Dots on Stripes was stylish?” Laurel joined in causing the woman to shake her head.

“Bite your tongue! And no. You see, I went to get the dress in size one because that’s my size and it didn’t fit! Apparently I grew into a size Five!” The woman sounded mortified at this discovery as if she had just witnessed a lewd act in public. “I couldn’t be seen on the red carpet of the Music Channel Video Awards dressed in a freaking size five! Then the blogs would call me…fat!”

“Oh no we can’t have that.” Laurel responded sarcastically. “How would you ever live with yourself knowing you aren’t a size one?”

The woman flipped her hair back angrily. “Do you know who I am? My name is Elizabeth Glitters! I am Pop Royalty. My song ‘Baby Stop! Baby No! Baby Don’t! Baby Give Me More!’ has been number one on the music charts for six months now.”

The woman was beyond sure of herself and Laurel couldn’t help but smile wanting so badly to knock her off the pedestal she put herself on.

“I’m sorry, but what does this have to do with me?” Laurel asked.

Elizabeth snapped her fingers remembering the reason she was there. “Well, there were paparazzi outside waiting to see what I brought and I couldn’t tell them the truth. So instead I told them that I was Vegan and protesting the store because they used real animal fur. Those dummies actually brought it and I was hailed as a hero and thankfully I sued that stupid sales associate for suggesting I was a size five; I was crowned the ‘Princess of Veganism’ by the National Animal Rights Peeps Association.”

There were many questions that Laurel wanted to ask about this situation but she didn’t have the time or energy to do so. Not today at least.

As if Tony and her shared the same mind he asked, “So what happened?”

“Some idiotic blogger spotted me eating a Grilled BBQ Chicken with a side of bacon, he threatened to leak the pictures unless I-unless I send him nude pictures of myself. Can you believe that? Most people would want money, because I’m rich and famous but that scumbag wants nudies. Ew!”

Good God this woman is going to make me choke her.’ Laurel thought to herself as she smiled pretending to take interest in anything that was coming out of this materialistic-cliché-Valley-girl-singer’s mouth.

“Did he manage to tell you when he plans on leaking these pictures?”

Elizabeth thought about that question and she shook her head not able to remember him mentioning a deadline. “Come to think of it, no he didn’t.”

Tony crossed his arms across his chest, “When did he message you that he has pictures?”

“This morning. I ate that for lunch yesterday in my car. It was an empty lot how did he even see me?”

Laurel wasn’t surprised at the length people would go to, especially Gossip Bloggers. A group of people who spend their time invested in the lives of others because they are sad, lonely and pathetic people. Her hatred for that community stemmed back to her mother Elizabeth Quinn’s suicide, which was caused by a Gossip Blogger.

They leaked a story, which revealed to the world she was diagnosed with Manic Depression and although she never made this public to her family, the fact outside people knew about this before her own family hurt Elizabeth. It hurt her so much she decided to jump off the Empire State Building leaving a young Laurel with not even a goodbye. It was because of that tragic day, Laurel decided to enroll in San New University majoring in Public Relations and she vowed to never see another Celebrity suffer in the Entertainment Industry. Of course her methods were rather unconventional she still got the job done, come Hell or high water.

She inhaled and exhaled deeply and gave Elizabeth a welcoming smile. “Here’s the plan. The blogger is a creep that has no connection with anyone in this industry. The fact that he’s extorting you for nude pictures is sad and rather amateurish considering your status as a celebrity. Because of this I am going to hand your situation over to my assistant Anthony here.”

The comment made Elizabeth uneasy and she looked over at the tall British man who looked as if he just came out of the pages of a GQ Magazine. “No offense Laura, but what can he do that you can’t?”

“It’s Laurel.” She corrected. “And he’s a hacker amongst other things. So he’s going to use your phone to hack into the blogger’s phone where he will delete the images and anything else that could potentially damage your reputation. Once that is done, Anthony will then delete any and all social media accounts silencing the blogger forever.”

A sigh of relief came out of Elizabeth’s mouth and she tried to hug Laurel but the Crisis Manager pushed back a little signaling that she didn’t want to be touched. She turned to Tony. “I assume you have this under control?” She asked calmly to which Tony gave her a simple nod in response.

“Great! I can-“

Laurel stopped speaking when a Twenty six year old man walked into the Publicity! office smiling and holding a manila envelope in his right hand. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything”, he said his soft tenor voice catching the attention of Tony and Elizabeth.

The 5’9 man with brown curly hair was Jace. He didn’t have a last name-well not one that Laurel knew of. He was the Private Investigator that had an office on the first floor of the building.

“Oh my gosh this is embarrassing.” Elizabeth said laughing nervously as she turned to face Jace. “I don’t have any headshots on me or a pen. But I can totally take a selfie with you if you’d like?”

Jace looked at her as if she was crazy. His eyebrows lowered at her words. “Why would I do that?”

“Um, because you’re Gay and I’m Elizabeth Glitters aka ‘The Princess of Pop’. The Gays love me duh!”

“Well this Gay has no idea who the hell you are.”

Elizabeth gasped clearly insulted. “I am a singer. My songs are number one on the charts and I was just endorsed by Maybe No Chic make up line yesterday.”

“Yeah sorry I listen to real music.” Jace ignored the singer’s gasp and he smiled at Laurel. “I got it.”

“Fantastic. Let’s head to my office.” Laurel walked over to the door of her personal office and Jace followed causing Tony to watch them suspiciously.

Why would she ask the Private Investigator for help? For the past three years they had been doing everything themselves without the aid of anyone else. What was she hiding? Tony didn’t know what to say or think but he was going to keep a careful eye on the situation.

“You look great!” Laurel said closing the door once Jace entered the office.

“Thank you. I just got back from Miami.”

“Oh for the LGBTQ Festival?”

“I wish. No, I was hired to retrieve a stolen Diamond. I spent most of it running from gunfire and almost getting blown up, but in between the knife fights I did catch up on some sightseeing. It’s really beautiful down there.”

Laurel smiled as she walked over to her office chair and sat down on it. Jace sat on the chair across from her desk and folded his right leg over his left.

She brushed away a strand of her Auburn hair from her eye and leaned back onto her chair folding her hands on her lap. “Okay, so what did you find out?”

“Let’s start with the name you gave me, Evan Matthews. As it turns out there are no legal records for Matthews. Apparently he doesn’t exist.”

“I figured as much.” Laurel stated.

Jace nodded. “So I dug further and I cross checked your address and found a match to a man named Brendon Aria. Initially I thought he was linked to the one and only Vincent Cappella aka the Kingpin.”

The name caught Laurel’s attention and she lowered her eyebrows unsure of where Jace was going with his words. “Vincent Capella is a man of many things. But he wouldn’t have sent someone to kill me. He does everything himself.”

“Oh I know.” Jace responded back. “Vincent-whom by the way is a complete ghost in the system, didn’t have anything to do with what happened in your house that night. Not him or his team of crazies.”

Laurel hated that she had to tell someone everything that happened to her on that night. How a stranger broke into her house, tried to kill her then ended up killing her baby instead, but this was something that has been haunting her brain for the past few days.

Jace continued, “I did manage to find one name that transferred money over to Brendon’s account that night of the attack-“

“How did you pull that off? Many hit men use offshore accounts to prevent being traced back to them in case the FBI or CIA find them.”

Jace gave her a wink and smirked, “You have your secrets and I have mine.”

Laurel could count the people she trusted with only two fingers. Tony wasn’t going to do anything to hurt her because he adored their crazy yet interesting friendship, but she trusted Jace because he wasn’t like most people.

While he was a Private Investigator he was hated by many of the Police Departments because he did their jobs better, he was also not the social type because he was Gay and although it is 2017, many people still found that an issue and in his line of work, he couldn’t trust if the person saying “Hi!” to him was purely interested or just wanting to kill him.

Laurel had respect for him and it was rare for her to admit that about anyone she had known while living here in San New for the past four years.

“The name that kept popping up belonged to Samson Rivera.”

She repeated the name again in her head as if it meant something to her, sadly it didn’t. She had never heard the name before. “Who is that?”

“This is where the story gets tricky. Okay, well apparently Samson is a Pimp so to speak. He owns a legal escort agency in New York City. Brendon Aria was a John of his.”

“Why would a Pimp pay a John?”

“That’s exactly what I asked myself, as it turns out Brendon and Samson are business partners. But they also had a friend who could help with their sudden business venture.”

Laurel had a look of confusion on her face as well as some denial that Jace could see was slowly making its way out, although she internally fought it every step of the way. He decided to hand her the manila envelope and she took it.

“Inside is the man who donated more than $3 million to them. He was the one that hired the hit on you. Brendon and him are Frat brothers from Harvard. He isn’t in San New or New York City. Right now as we speak, he’s facing seven years at the Borger County Federal Prison, for money laundering. Which is an hour and a half away from San New.” Jace’s voice was filled with sadness and he got up from the chair. “I’m sorry Laurel, I really am.”

Laurel cleared her throat and smiled at him. “Thank you Jace.”

“Anytime.” He walked over to her office door and opened it, he stepped out and slowly closed it behind him. He flashed Tony a smile and walked out of the facility passing by Elizabeth who was trying to sing but it was very evident auto tune was a requirement for her records.

Tony looked away from his computer screen as Jace walked out and he glanced over at Laurel’s office wondering what happened and what their conversation was about. Whatever was said made Laurel look sick to her stomach.

Laurel looked at the folder and she opened it to see a mug shot of David Jimberson. She turned the page and came upon an image of David posing with four men part of a fraternity.

She closed the folder and held her stomach in disgust. The killer wasn’t there to kill Laurel because a stranger hired him to, he was hired by David!

Laurel opened the folder again and looked into the aquamarine eyes of the man.

Rage grew inside of Laurel thinking about that night. She wanted revenge not only for Elijah but also for herself.

As Confucius once said, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”. Laurel already dug one for her son, the next one? It had a name on it and that name belonged to her ex-husband, David Jimberson.

That Sweet Swan Song

December 19^th^, 2017:

A blonde woman stared angrily into the camera as the caption ‘Taura’s Talk Time!’ slid across the screen under her image. The woman was known as Taura Lohini, a no nonsense Republican that spoke her mind never caring about the consequences it may have on her image. As long as the public knew her name and as long as she was making headlines with her absurd statements, that’s all that mattered to her. Sadly.

I’m sure now that the Presidential Election has winded down, Liberals are still being big crybabies about the results. They are causing mayhem on the streets by protesting and stopping traffic as well as destroying their own communities. Leave it to Libtards to mess up the economy and blame it on Republicans.” She shook her head in disgust and she continued speaking.

One Libtard is Korean-turned English Pop Singer Geo Kion. He spent a majority of the campaign bashing Presidential Elect Reber at every chance he got. Well his act took a comical turn when he performed on another Liberal show ‘Comedy Sketch Laugh Live’ last night and he suffered technical difficulties and instead of him performing like a true artist, he ended up cursing the producers, cast and crew, his fans and even the Presidential Elect.

What I don’t get about these Hollywood Show Ponies is who gives them a right to talk politics? Who are they to even share their opinion on the happenings of this amazing nation? They don’t even work hard! Instead they go the studio, read lines off a page and get paid to be the face of whatever pathetic cosmetic line hires them!

My problem with Hollywood Libtards is long believe me, but my real issue is here with Geo Kion. This is a man who spent a majority of his career singing Korean Pop songs, he was made a United States citizen two years ago and he thinks he knows what is “good” for this Nation? His rant once again proves, why the Presidential Elect needs to focus his energy on withdrawing any ties with the Asian Nation! He’s a disgrace to Korea and most importantly a disgraceful American that needs to have his visa revoked ASAP!”

Laurel muted the television screen in her office and she swiveled in her chair to face Geo Kion. He was seated on the chair across from her desk and he couldn’t believe what he just heard come out of the woman’s mouth.

“Is she serious?” He asked nervously.

“I wouldn’t entertain her opinion. She’s a fake Republican that has a husband who she believes was cured from being Gay, but the boys in West Hollywood beg to differ.” Laurel stated.

“But what now? That video went viral and every social media blog has dubbed me ‘difficult to work with’. I’m far from that. I didn’t say anything offensive. I just had a crazy night. The microphone wasn’t working and none of the stage hands were helping me. Clearly, they were setting me up for ratings. Which they now got because that video of me cursing everyone out, has gotten over two million views.”

He wasn’t lying about that. If he thought the views were extreme, he should read the comment’s section. That was ten times worst.

Laurel grabbed a Tablet device off her desk and she swiped the screen trying to find the video that Geo was referring to. After a few searches, she was able to find it on the media app Me-Tube. She turned the tablet device over so the screen faced Geo and she pressed the play button.

The twenty eight year old Korean Pop Singer combed his fingers through his neon colored green hair and watched the video as it played.

In the video Geo strums a few strings of his neon green acoustic guitar as he does a few adlibs into the microphone. He closes his eyes as he continues strumming each string and he finally opens his eyes and he gazes into the camera as the audience of women were screaming his name at the top of their lungs.

Ooooh, where did you spend the night, my love?

Ooooh, I gave my heart, was that enough?

[* Noooow, I lay here bl-ing f- while you- st-“ *]

Geo stops singing but continues to play the guitar hoping someone behind the scenes heard the microphone disrupting his vocals. He clears his throat and continues singing realizing no one was coming to help him.

But you! You lied to me with the same lips that kissed me!

[* The same lips that- made- i- S- Fine- mi- loaded-“ *]

Finally having enough, Geo stops playing the guitar and slams it onto the floor of the stage breaking it into pieces as the crowd stops cheering and looks at him in shock at his actions.

I am tired of this {Bleeping} Country! Thinking you can just {Bleep} me over and that’s okay? {Bleep} CNB! {Bleep} America! And {Bleep} Reber!”

Without saying another word Geo storms off the stage leaving his fans shocked at this and hurt.

Laurel stopped the video and placed the Tablet device back on her desk as Geo buried his face in his hands in embarrassment.

“I-I don’t know what to say. I look like a total Jack Ass! My fans hate me.”

“Actually they don’t. According to the hashtag they created called ‘WeStandWithGeo’, they haven’t left your side.”

Geo felt at ease to know his fans didn’t fully abandon him but it didn’t give him one hundred percent hope as many of the gigs he was booked for cancelled on him. They feared he would flip out on them as well if technical difficulties arose.

“I love my fans Ms.Quinn I truly do. I get that I screwed up badly. But I need this. I need you to fix this. Make all of this go away! I came to America to extend my music, not to be destroyed by this scandal.” Laurel could see the sadness in Geo’s eyes and hear the passion in the tone of his voice. She opened the drawer to her desk and she took out a flier and handed it to the man.

He took the flier and read the contents. “What’s a ‘Flango Mango’?”

“That’s the new café which opened on Eighth Avenue last year. The café has an open mic with a culturally diverse clientele. I’m talking about Hippies, Hipsters, LGBTQ individuals and Potheads. These people go there to enjoy the scenery and music and I believe you performing there will give you a redo in all of this.”

Geo couldn’t help but notice the flier had his face on it with the specific time and place that he was performing. None of this was run by him or his team and this woman managed to take it upon herself to schedule all of this. He shook his head and placed the flier on her desk.

“I didn’t approve any of this.”

Laurel nodded her head slowly. “I know you didn’t. I did. You see, you are going to perform here because this is a gig. Something you and I both know isn’t really being presented to you since your little Christian Bale melt down. Now, the show starts at 8pm sharp. You will focus the rest of your morning writing and recording a brand new song that will have everyone talking tomorrow.”

“A new song?” Geo scuffed. “You must be crazy! I cannot write and record a song in twelve hours. That’s crazy, especially for me!”

“I wasn’t asking you. I’m telling you what you will be doing. You will write a new song-preferably about being cheated on- because you are going to apologize to your fans for your behavior last night. You will tell them that you found your girlfriend having sex with your best friend. You thought that you could handle it, but the technical issues you suffered caused every emotion you had to come flooding back at once. This excuse will paint you as the victim and you will win the hearts of every woman, child, baby and man. No one enjoys a love story gone wrong than half of anyone’s fan base.”

Geo had to admit the idea was genius. It gave him an excuse for his behavior although he was angry at the station, but overall it helped ease his scandal. He thought the meeting was over but Laurel had something else to add.

“I have a Private Investigator looking into the tapes from yesterday to see if there was any sabotages that the studio took part in to screw your performance over.”

Geo smiled. “So you do believe me? You believe that the studio screwed me over?”

“Right now it’s too early to say anything, but if that is proven correct, then I will leak this information to the public, which will ultimately sever all ties with the studio and your record label.”

Geo didn’t care about whether or not his label would approve of this decision if the truth was exposed. The only thing he cared about was his reputation and his career, nothing more and nothing less.

“Okay that sounds good. I’ll call my manager to book a studio for me. My label would definitely be happy to hear I’m working on a new song.”

Laurel smiled once again nodding her head. “Sounds great. I’ll be there tonight and you don’t need to worry about your fans, they’ll be there. Remember if any technical issues do happen, you are to continue with your performance. Fans love nothing more than when an artist continues singing while suffering tech issues, remember that.”

Geo gave the Crisis Manager a nod and he got up from the seat and walked out of the office feeling so much better than when he came in.

Laurel watched as he left her office as well the office of Publicity! and she took out the manila envelope Jace gave her the other day from her drawer. She placed it on her desk and picked up her cellphone dialing Tony’s number.

She placed the phone on her right ear and waited patiently as the other line began to ring, after a few seconds Tony answered with a groggy and slow, “Hello?”

“Good morning Tony. I hope I didn’t wake you.”

“Oh Quinn! Not at all I was just…um…cooking breakfast.”

Laurel smirked into the phone, “You’re not a very good liar. Which is ironic considering everything. But I’m calling because I’m going out of town for a few hours and I won’t be taking any calls.”

“Is everything okay?”

“Oh yes everything is fine. I just have a client who is in great need of my services and she isn’t really keen on travelling to San New.” She lied with so much ease that it even scared herself.

“Okay, do you need me to drive you? Or pick you up? Maybe meet you half way?”

“Nonsense. It’s your day off you need the rest more than I do. Just spend your day relaxing, catching up with old friends…or whatever your idea of fun is.”

“Are you sure? I can definitely meet you-“

“No.” Laurel stated quickly. “I need this road trip to get my mind focused and I could use a get away from the city. But I’ll be back before Eight tonight. Geo Kion is performing an intimate show at the Flango Mango.”

Tony let out a gasp. “Seriously?! I love that man’s music!”

“Well then, I guess I’ll see you at the café.”

“You most certainly will!”

Laurel’s smile shrunk into a mere smirk. “Tony…Thank you for everything. I know you and I have a confusing history. But, I know no matter what happens you will always be there for me.” Her tone was filled with a quiet sadness.

“Quinn, I know you well enough to know something is wrong.”

Laurel rolled her eyes smiling. “Seriously? A woman tells you how much she appreciates you and you’re worried something is wrong? All you men are paranoid, Geez.”

“I’m just making sure you’re okay.”

“And I am. So let me get going before traffic gets crazy. I’ll call you when I’m coming back. Goodbye Tony.”

“See you Quinn.”

Laurel hung up the cellphone and got up from her chair grabbing the manila envelope, her purse and her black trench coat. She walked out of her office and through the waiting area making her way toward the main door of Publicity!. Her mind was made up already; she wasn’t going to have another sleepless night thinking about that tragic Christmas Eve again, she was going to confront the man responsible for it. The man she spent six years of her life married to, the man she loved endlessly. The man that betrayed her trust and the man that was soon going to discover; just how dangerous Laurel Quinn really is.

Borger County Federal Prison (12:40pm):

A heavy metallic door to the Visitor’s Wing slid open and Laurel walked inside of the room followed by a husky Prison Guard. The room had eight circular metallic tables and three metallic chairs on each side of the circular tables. Every furniture in the room was bolted to the ground, a fact that didn’t really shock Laurel.

“Is this room more suitable for you to meet your client in?” The guard asked as Laurel walked over to a large table that had a few dents in it. She looked at the guard and smiled nodding at him. “Yes it is. Thank you so much for the accommodations, I do apologize for coming here on such short notice. There was a new lead on his case and I couldn’t wait to get to tell him all about it.” She knew every word coming out of her mouth was a lie but this was what she lived for, spinning stories and telling convincing lies.

The guard nodded his head, “That’s good. David is a pain in my ass. The faster he’s out of here the better.”

Laurel hid her true emotions behind the smile she had famously put on whenever the wheels in her mind were spinning.

The guard turned around as another guard, this one shorter and bulker in size entered the room with David Jimberson by his side.

David’s eyes widened as he saw his ex-wife and he couldn’t believe how beautifully radiant she was. It was about three years since he saw her, since he held her, since he kissed her and since he was able to call her ‘his’.

Laurel sat down on one of the metallic chairs that faced the door. David wasn’t wearing any handcuffs which was expected since he wasn’t imprisoned with assault or murder charges, just money laundering which was nothing more than a White Collar Crime.

He slowly walked over to the chair across from her and he sat down slowly. His brown hair was longer than she remembered, his aquamarine eyes were filled with regret and sadness and he wore a yellow prison jumpsuit.

“L-Laurel? Is that really you? What are you doing here?”

Laurel had many things she wanted to say to this man but she kept her cool and most importantly, she kept calm. After all, she wanted to walk out of the prison and not be arrested in one.

She flipped her Auburn hair back and smirked at him. “I’m not here to see you. I’m here to get answers from you.”

“Answers? About what? Are you okay?”

“I know what you did.”

The statement caused David to gasp as if Laurel punched him in the gut taking all the air out of his lungs. He looked over his shoulders as the guards left the room and closed the door behind them. Most prisons would be worried about leaving a convict alone in the room with someone, but David wasn’t a threat and since he was speaking to his “lawyer” they decided it was best to give them privacy to discuss the case at hand; it also helped that Laurel had acquaintances in high places.

David turned back to Laurel and glared at her, “What the hell are you talking about? I was arrested on a Ponzi scheme last year. Everyone knows that.”

“Don’t play stupid-or in your case, don’t be stupid! I’m not talking about your sad little crime. I’m talking about how you killed my son!”

David shook his head denying the accusation. “No, not that is not true! You killed him! You and that damn job! You’re so damaged you don’t know how to make friends, you just make enemies, with everyone! One of which killed my son!”

Laurel couldn’t help but smirk at his words. For the past two years Laurel had done nothing but blamed herself for the tragedy. She believed it was her fault Elijah died and to make matters worse David blamed her as well.

“Are you still playing that pathetic card?” She asked not even phased that he was once again blaming her for what happened.

“It’s not a pathetic card! It’s the truth! That’s why I left. I couldn’t bear to live in the same house as you…with the same woman that had my…my only son killed!”

Laurel wished she had an award to give David because he was an amazing actor. His legs shaking under the desk, his eyes tearing up and his voice cracking remembering Elijah; it was an impressive performance. She wondered if he had been taking acting classes in the Prison’s Performing Arts program.

“Your son? The same son that you missed his funeral and burial? The same son you never once mentioned even when you decided to file for divorce the day after he was buried? The same son you never once went to visit his gravesite? That son?”

David was starting to grow angry at her words. They were true and certainly stabbing him in the right places but he didn’t want to relive those forgotten memories again.

“You need to be quiet.” He warned her.

“Or what? Hmm? You’re going to have me killed like how I was supposed to die that night? And if the idiot you hired actually had great aim, I would’ve been dead and you would’ve taken over Publicity!. That was the plan right? Marry me and then kill me to inherit my business?”

David shifted uncomfortably in his chair as he heard the words coming out of Laurel’s mouth. “Why, Why would I take over a stupid company anyways?”

“ I asked myself that same question. Also I asked why you didn’t try to fight for it in the divorce. But then I remembered you never once put in a dollar toward my company so legally you had no right. Then I asked, what sense would it make for you-a college dropout- to take over my company? Then I discovered you are exactly $36.5 million in debt. Well at least with a bookie. You have five years to pay all that money back. And my company is worth more than that. Which is why I refuse to buy a bigger building. But you knew that already.”

David had no words to say and even if he did have something to deny or justify her claims, Laurel wasn’t going to let him get a word in edge wise.

“What really hurts me, isn’t the fact you tried to kill me, because you weren’t the first and you certainly won’t be the last. It hurts me more that after Elijah died you left town. You never once faced that crime. You never once faced that guilt!”

David leaned in closer to her lowering his voice to a whisper. “If you’re looking for a confession you’re out of luck. I’m not talking. I’m here for money laundering. And don’t waste your time, Brendon’s not going to talk either.”

Laurel smirked again this time it was sinister and her hazel eyes twinkled with victory. “You’re right about that, Brendon won’t talk at all. Not because he has some loyalty to you, but because he’s currently….tied up at the moment…well at the bottom of the San New River that is.”

“What?” David asked letting out a shocked gasp.

Something shifted in Laurel’s eyes. There was always a sense of innocence in them, of a woman that was caring and brave, but this time David saw something dark in them. Something that scared him in ways he could never imagine. “I told you the day you met me. I’m not like most girls. I really wish you would’ve listened to that warning. Now here we are.”

David couldn’t hold back his emotions and he started to cry at the thought of his best friend Brendon currently suffering a very painful and slow death.

“S-so are you here to kill me too? If so there are cameras and you’ll never make it out of here.” he informed her slowly.

Laurel shook her head slowly at him. “Oh Gosh no. I have too much blood on my hands already. Besides, this wing is known as the ‘Blind Wing’ because the cameras don’t work. They haven’t been working for six years. I’m just here to tell you that I know the truth. I know that you killed my son and that…I forgive you.” Her tone changed as she said the three words she never thought would ever come out of her mouth.

It was then that David realized the guilt he felt for how that night turned out was starting to lift off his shoulders. He had spent many nights sleeping in his cold cell wondering how his life would’ve turned out if he hadn’t hired Brendon and if he was still happily married to the woman of his dreams.

Laurel got up from the chair, walked over toward the metallic door and she turned around to look at David for one last time. “Goodbye David. I really hope you enjoy your life.”

He didn’t bother to look back at his ex-wife and she didn’t want him to. She knocked on the door and it slid open as the guards stood by and they watched her leave. The shorter guard entered the room as David rose to his feet ready to go back in his cell.

But something happened. The metallic door closed again and David only saw the shorter guard in the room with him. “What’s going on? Aren’t I going back to my cell?”

The guard smirked, “Not today buddy.” Without a second to think, breathe, guess or react, the guard lunged at him and stabbed David in the stomach with a sharp blade.

“AGH!”

The Borger County Federal Prison was unaware that in the Blind Wing one of their prisoners was being killed. He wasn’t going to make it back to his cell after all, he wasn’t going to finish serving the time he was sentenced and worse of all? They wouldn’t be able to pinpoint who killed David Jimberson because his murder is the sixth death in the County Prison in less than a week.

Since they didn’t want the negative publicity, the media would never find out the truth about the other five prisoners who mysteriously were killed and now…David just joined that growing list of unsolved deaths.

6662 LaLaine Street, Home of Laurel Quinn (10:15pm):

Tony pushed open the lobby door of the apartment building that contained thirty-eight floors and he walked over to the elevator pressing the button. In his hands was a bottle of champagne with a pink ribbon on it. He wasn’t dressed in a buttoned up shirt he was famously known for. He instead had on a black t-shirt, blue jeans and brown boots. His hair wasn’t styled with gel and he still had scruffy facial hair that he didn’t bother shaving off.

For the first time in many weeks, he looked relaxed, happy and calm. It was a new feeling for him and he couldn’t help but smile to himself.

The lobby door swung open and he turned around to see Laurel walking in. She paused as she saw Tony waiting for the elevator.

“Tony? What are you doing here?” Laurel asked in shock.

“Oh hey! I was actually here to see you. I didn’t see you at the showcase and I was worried.”

“Yeah I instead met up with Jace. I wasn’t really in the mood to be in a setting with a lot of people.”

“Oh okay. Well I’m glad to see you’re okay and I brought champagne.”

The elevator doors opened and Laurel entered followed by Tony. She pressed the button labeled ‘25’ and the doors closed. As the elevator started to ascend, she looked at the bottle in Tony’s hand.

“What’s the champagne for?” She asked leaning against the wall of the elevator.

Tony cleared his throat. “It’s a gift of celebration. I’ve been trying to tell you some great news. I enrolled at the San New Community College.”

Laurel gasped a little and smiled. “That is amazing, congratulations!”

“Thank you. But don’t worry, this will not interfere with my commitment to Publicity!. I’m taking a few courses online.”

“You don’t need to worry. As long as you’re happy with learning that’s all that matters.” Laurel looked up at the screen and she watched as the numbers began to change from 10-18 in a quick pace. She smiled and confessed, “I thought you were going to tell me about you and Jace dating.”

The words caused Tony’s eyes to widen in disbelief. “Wh-what me dating Jace? That’s-that’s crazy.”

Laurel glanced over at him and she arched her right eyebrow. “I’m sorry, am I supposed to wait until you came out the closet? I have no issues with you being Gay or with you dating Jace. He’s a great guy. I just hope you’re careful around him. He may seem sweet and innocent, but he is a Private Investigator. He knows a few things about me. But you’re a hit man, so make sure you tread lightly around him.”

He knew Laurel was right about Jace. He had his reservations about the young Private Investigator when he first met him last year, but they have something special together and that couldn’t be denied. Tony had a past as did everyone, he knew that when the time was right and he tells Jace the truth; all will be great…He hoped.

The elevator finally made it to the Twenty Fifth floor and the doors opened, Laurel stepped out into the hallway and walked down as her stiletto shoes echoed through the hallway. “I think it’s sweet. You two are cute together. I also think it’s sweeter that you two have been keeping this a secret for seven months now.”

Tony followed her and gripped the champagne bottle tightly. “How did you find out?”

“There’s a security camera in the staircase and I caught you two making out. I must say I knew you were aggressive but I had no idea just how aggressive you really were. It was shockingly hot. I guess now I know why middle aged straight women write Gay romance novels.” She laughed taking out her apartment keys from her purse.

Tony’s face turned red and they finally approached the apartment 25F.

Just as Laurel was about to put the key into the keyhole, the door opened and a man wearing a business suit was standing inside of her apartment.

Tony gripped the top of the bottle tightly seconds away from smashing it over the intruder’s head. Laurel looked at the stranger in frustration and she rolled her eyes at his presence.

“We’ve been waiting for you Laurel. Are you two the only ones?” the man asked.

Tony didn’t understand why Laurel wasn’t as defensive as he was.

She ignored the question and stepped into her apartment as if she knew the stranger. Tony kept a careful eye on him as he followed her inside and they both stopped in the living room.

Standing by Laurel’s television screen was a man. He was about forty-three years old, he had a baldhead, stood at 6’1 and he had a stocky figure. He was wearing a black and white tuxedo that wasn’t really form fitting but at the same time it wasn’t baggy either.

Tony recognized the man as Vincent Capella. The infamous King Pin of New York City. The man was responsible for the murder of two hundred men. He sold weapons to gangs, weapons overseas to various countries that were allies to America and he made sure the streets of New York were safe in any way possible. His tactics were dangerous and very deadly to those who opposed him, and he was not a force to be reckoned with. This was a man you wanted on your side when you went to war.

Vincent placed his arms behind his back as he saw both Laurel and Tony. “How is it that you’re a Fixer and yet I’m the one that has to clean up your mess?” His voice was deep and his tone was stern. His Emerald eyes were set on Laurel; making it obvious to Tony he was speaking directly to her.

Laurel rolled her eyes, an action that Tony hoped she wouldn’t take any further than that, he didn’t have any of his guns to defend himself or her if the occasion arose. He kept his grip on the head of the champagne bottle and he carefully eyed every movement Capella made.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I always clean up my messes.” She replied causing Capella to smile amused by her answer.

He opened his mouth to say something when he paused as he saw Tony’s knuckles turn white while gripping the bottle. “Laurel, it seems your friend over here has something on his mind.”

Laurel glanced over at Tony and she placed a hand on his right shoulder calming him down. “It’s okay Tony.”

“No it isn’t!” Tony stated breaking his silence. “That is Vincent Capella. He is a ruthless killer. He murders people without batting an eye!”

“I am truly offended by that statement!” Capella gasped as if he truly took offense. “I don’t kill ‘people’. Just men. I am a gentleman after all.”

Laurel squeezed Tony’s shoulder gently. “I know who he is Tony. But I promise you he isn’t here to hurt us.”

Tony looked at Laurel staring into her hazel eyes. “How do you know that?”

“Because-“Laurel began speaking not taking her hand off of his shoulder. “-He’s my father.”

Tony froze in shock and he looked at Laurel unable to comprehend why he didn’t know this fact sooner.

But another thought crossed his mind, if she was able to keep that a secret, what else is she hiding from him?

Publicity! :

Death Becomes Her

(Volume 2)

A Warm Welcome!

December 26^th^, 2017: 6:40 am @ The Office of Publicity!:

The elevator doors opened on the third floor of 3260 Amethyst Road. Laurel Quinn stepped out and began walking down the corridor, which was covered with red and green Christmas decorations. She ignored the lonely pink and silver decorated Christmas tree that stood a few feet away from the main door of Publicity!.

The heels of her lavender stiletto pumps made noise with every step she took on the black and white marble tiled floor. Her shoulder length Auburn hair was placed in a neat bun on top of her head. She had on a black cotton trench coat that reached her knees-any longer and she would’ve felt like that flasher with the one eye who hangs out at the local park- a black designer bag was slung over her right shoulder and she kept her focus on the office door she was now approaching.

The day after Christmas was meant for resting or spending time with family. One thing about Laurel, she never rests and truthfully, the sight of her father once a year was good enough for her.

Laurel stopped walking as she saw the lights to the waiting area turn on, a sight that made her confused as well as frustrated that anyone would bother breaking into the office-without letting her get her first sip of coffee. But it also made her excited to try out the new Taser she brought online last week!

Before she could dig inside of her purse to retrieve the Taser, her assistant Tony Vincetti walked over to the office door holding a cup of coffee in his right hand. He signaled for the Crisis Manger to enter and she lowered her eyebrows pulling open the door.

“I was two seconds away from frying your balls!” She stated. “What the hell are you doing here anyway? I thought you and Jace were headed to Toronto to spend Christmas and New Year’s together?”

Tony gave her a simple nod and he opened his mouth to speak but Laurel interjected with a gasp. “Please tell me you two did not split up! The last thing I need is to find another Private Investigator whom I can trust!”

Her assistant waited to see if she was finished talking and he answered her questions. “We did not break up.” This prompted Laurel to sigh in relief thanking Heaven that both men were in good terms with one another. “His father got sick so I drove him down to New York City. I would’ve stayed but meeting his parents this early on would be weird, yeah? Plus it doesn’t help he lives in the Big Apple which is the same city where Vincent Capella-I apologize- I meant your father rules the streets.”

“Ugh!” Laurel rolled her hazel eyes annoyed he was bringing up that subject again. She grabbed the hot coffee cup from Tony’s hand and made her way to her personal office as the main door closed behind her. “Are you still on that subject?”

Still? When in bloody hell did we ever get off the subject? You’re acting as if this isn’t a big deal!” Tony followed her into the office and he was still angry that she never told him the truth about her father. He didn’t expect her to be honest about everything but he thought with the friendship they had together, the information she was withholding would’ve been something he would’ve liked to hear come from her mouth.

“Trust me Tony, this isn’t a big deal at least not for me. He’s my father so what? It’s not like he’s Santa Claus!”

Tony let out a chuckle, “Santa Claus would’ve been more believable if you ask me, yeah?”

Laurel took a quick sip of the black bitter coffee and she placed it down on her desk. She started to unbutton the trench coat while admiring Tony’s new apparel.

She wasn’t surprised to see him wearing a black long t-shirt with the name ‘TheForbiddenOnes’ on it, after all that was his favorite UK Rock band –although she never understood why, since she never considered their genre as actually being real music- but it did surprise her that he would wear the shirt she just got him for Christmas.

When she purchased the shirt she got a size ‘large’, as Tony was slim he enjoyed clothes that gave him room to breathe. The shirt was a bit big on him, but it wasn’t like he was complaining about it being bigger than he normally wears his clothes; he was too busy complaining about something else to worry about the shirt.

She took off her trench coat and placed it on the back of her black and red leather office chair.

“Tony, what is it that you want me to say? Do you want me to apologize for not introducing my father to you?”

The thirty-year-old British man rubbed his forehead, “It isn’t about that Quinn. You could’ve told me. I-I honestly feel like you’re hiding something else from me. Like maybe you’re married to Brad Aniston, or you’re a witch who feasts on the souls of bloody children!”

Laurel smirked as Tony rambled on about the other possible-yet outrageous- secrets she could be hiding from him. She sat down on her office chair and waited for him to catch his breath so she could finally have her input.

“Stop being so dramatic. First off, if we’re going to talk about secrets, you never once told me about you and Jace. I had to find that out by seeing you two making out on the staircase like Megan Lohan making out with her brother in rehab. Secondly, this so called secret you’re complaining about isn’t that much of a big deal. He’s my father and whether you choose to believe it or not, the relationship he and I have consists of us meeting once a year.”

“Yes. That’s because he’s a bloody killer!”

Laurel couldn’t help but snicker at the comment Tony made about her father.

Vincent Capella had a lot of blood on his hands even with the FBI, CIA, and DEA on his coattail-and on his payroll- but he was never an immediate threat. He was a modern day Robin Hood. He would set up meetings with Drug Lords, kill each one of them, steal their merchandise, sell it to various people in different states and use that money to give back to communities. He was not any eviler than [ Insert Politician’s Name Here].

“Tony I appreciate your concern, I do. But to the outside world he is just Vincent Capella. In my heart I know who he is and thanks to his friends, any documentations that prove he and I are related have been wiped clean and are gone. That is solely because we have covered our tracks. My mother raised me and brought me to Los Angeles for her to live her dream until I moved to San New. Hell, not even those bloggers knew she was married to him. Hate me if you have to or write a sad British ballad, but you need to know; secrets are a Quinn’s best friend.”

Tony understood the logic and he didn’t blame both parties from distancing themselves. Yet something still had him puzzled, “But why does he come here once a year wouldn’t that kind of put you both in danger? He could just mail you your Christmas present.”

Laurel could see that Tony was becoming more interested in her personal life and as much as she hated it, she couldn’t blame him for caring. They have a friendship that not many people can understand or even comprehend for the most part. It was easy to hide her father’s visits because Tony always went away for the holidays, but this year Vincent surprised her by coming unannounced after he found out Laurel hired one of his henchmen, to murder her ex-husband.

The question had an answer that Laurel had never discussed with Tony before and it was a topic that although she didn’t want to discuss it, her actions against her ex-husband and the man he hired to assassinate her- but instead killed her son- might seem out of the blue to Tony.

“Fine.” She stated causing Tony to sit down on the leather chair facing Laurel’s desk. “But I never want to discuss this with you again.”

Tony nodded his head and placed his hands on his lap reminding Laurel of an innocent child about to be told a very magical story by a loved one.

“Okay, so three years ago on February 16th I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy named Elijah. He was healthy, so happy and bubbly…basically everything I’m not. On what would’ve been his first Christmas Eve…he was killed. It turns out my ex-husband hired a hit man to kill me. Unfortunately the idiot’s aim was off that he fired his gun and a stray bullet killed Elijah instead.”

The mood in the office changed and Tony was at a loss of words. He didn’t have a smart reply or even a sense of sarcasm to add into the mix. Instead, he looked down at his hands unable to come up with anything to say. It made him feel dumb and immoral that he would push the subject of Laurel lying when he finally knew why she was doing it this whole time.

“Quinn I’m s-“

“No!” She quickly interjected. “I do not want your sympathy or your pity apologies. I want you to realize that there are things I won’t tell you and you need to respect that. Got it?”

Tony gave his boss a nod. He secretly admired the fact she had suffered a very personal tragedy by losing her son and yet she never once shown any distractions in her professional life. She kept every appointment, every client and even kept her sanity through all of this. It was admiration sure, but he feared that she was a ticking time bomb and it wouldn’t be long until she exploded. Question was, when exactly will that happen?
The sound of a high pitch Ding caused Laurel to roll her eyes and Tony straightened his posture. The sound was Tony’s idea. He installed a motion sensor device somewhere in the waiting area. The alarm was programmed to signal when someone who wasn’t him or Laurel was in the office. When that happens the alarm would ring out similar to the bells various storeowners have over their doors, to let them know when a customer has arrived in their establishment.

Laurel got up from her desk and walked out of her office –with her assistant right behind her- and came to a halt when they spotted thirty eight year old Jared Morgan in the waiting room; he was scared, nervous and looked as if he had just seen a ghost.

Jared Morgan was the star of the smash television Hospital Drama ‘Dying Tomorrow’. The show was a huge success last year and it sent Jared into complete stardom. He was on the top of everyone’s list for being a talented actor as well as the most handsome bachelor. Laurel didn’t find him attractive, then again she was never into men who had longer hair than her.

“Can I help you?” She asked slowly stepping toward him.

Jared nodded his head frantically. “I-I sure hope you can. I came back from a long day on set and f-found this.” He handed her a folded up piece of paper.

Laurel noticed his hand was shaking and she wondered what exactly the letter could contain. It had to be something horrible if it made the middle-aged man more nervous than a Republican riding the subway.

Tony watched as she took the piece of paper from his hand and unfolded it. She began reading the letter to herself and it made Tony question what was in it. He cleared his throat signaling to Laurel that he wanted to hear what the contents inside were. She apologized and read the letter aloud:

I kno all about wat u did 2 her and I’m going 2 tell every1 on December 30^th^. While ur busy hosting the Image Awards I’m gunna destroy urs!

~TSK511”

She stopped reading the typed letter and looked at Jared with a state of confusion on her face. “Where did you find this again?”

The actor nervously cleared his dry throat. He lived twenty-eight blocks away from the agency and once he found the letter, he couldn’t wait until business hours to make his way through the city; so he grabbed his running shoes and ran as fast as he could.

Tony noticed the actor’s difficulty with speaking and he walked over to the office’s stainless steel refrigerator where he took out a cold bottle of water. He closed the refrigerator door and walked back over to Jared.

“It was in my mailbox. It was just there, folded up in the mailbox.” He cleared his throat again feeling a tickling sensation. Tony handed him the bottle and he thanked him as he untwisted the cap and took a small sip.

Laurel could see how shaken up Jared was about the letter and she decided the best option was to dig further into him, like a fork in the Christmas ham.

She turned to Tony and handed him the letter, “I need you to dust this letter for fingerprints and run it through the system.”

Tony carefully took it in his hands and gave his boss a nod. “Sure thing Quinn, maybe we’ll find the mastermind behind it, yeah?”

Laurel chuckled, “Mastermind is an understatement, trust me.” She turned toward Jared and gave him a warm smile. “Let’s talk in my office and discuss this further.”

She motioned for him to enter her office and he walked over bowing his head in defeat and remorse. Laurel followed him in closing the door behind her as Jared sat on the leather chair. She walked around the right side of the desk and sat on her throne-sized chair.

“Based on the horrible written letter and your body language you know exactly what this person is referring to, don’t you?”

“I-I honestly have no idea what that letter meant and-“

“I’m going to stop you right there.-” Laurel interjected with a smirk. “I just had my first sip of coffee so you’re safe from me throwing my office phone at your head, but if you’re going to sit here and insult my intelligence by lying to me, I advise you take this case to that wannabe Publicist Lois Castillo down the block.”

Jared quickly shook his head motioning how bad the idea was. “N-no not at all. You come with great recommendations.”

“Then tell me what the hell is going on.”

Jared wanted more than anything to make this go away because the truth was tragic and he needed this entire thing to go away before it could get any worse, if that was even possible.

He straightened his posture on the chair and folded his arms across his chest. “Five years ago…I adopted a Yorkie named Sheila and after I got the gig on the show I had to permanently move to San New. Since we film the show here and my building doesn’t allow dogs, my mother couldn’t take care of her because she’s allergic so-I…um…I had Sheila put down.”

Remembering the tragic decision caused Jared to break down in tears.

Laurel had to admit she expected the truth to involve a human being. She wasn’t against animal rights at all but the way Jared entered her office she had assumed he murdered a fan or a prostitute.

She reached over a few folders, grabbed a box of tissues off her desk and handed it to him. He took a few tissues out and blew his nose in them.

“This is definitely a tragic case Jared, it really is. I can assure you, your secret is safe with me. However, I do not believe this story will be leaked. There isn’t enough information in that letter to even say anything that could be seen as damaging to your career or image.”

Jared wiped his nose and looked at her in surprise, “S-seriously?”

She nodded placing the box of tissues back down on her desk. “No one knows why you put your dog down and-“

“But this person does!” Jared stated trying his best to calm himself down.

Laurel gave him a nod. “And if the story comes out, I’ll spin it saying that Sheila had an untreatable disease and you saw no other option than to put her down. Naturally you were devastated because you didn’t just put down your dog, you put down your family. Trust me, the Animal Rights people will love you.”

“A-And it won’t affect ‘Dying Tomorrow’?”

“Oh it will, but in a positive way. No one loves an animal supporter more than single women in their late forties. Which thankfully is the show’s key demographic.”

Jared enjoyed what he was hearing and he knew she was right. In his mind he still held that guilt and the letter caused him to worry even more as if his dreams were going to come crashing down.

Just last week the promotions for a new cat themed film ‘9 Litters’ was cancelled by the studio after a video leaked of the producer throwing one of many cats out of a window for a stunt performance. The video’s leak caused the film’s studio to yank the movie out of every theatre throughout the United States costing them billions of dollars.

Jared worried that if this got out to the public his career would suffer the same fate or worse.

“What do I do now?” Jared asked nervously.

Laurel gave him a shrug, “Wait it out. Anthony will still run the prints and we can identify who sent this to you. But other than that, there isn’t much I can do this early on.”

Jared shot up to his feet feeling a sense of freedom and relief. “Thank you so much Laurel! I owe you!” She watched as he walked over to the office door, opened it and practically skipped out of the office as if he had just heard amazing news.

Laurel took her coffee cup off her desk and took a sip turning around on her chair facing the television screen behind her. She was seconds away from turning it on when Tony knocked on her door lightly causing her to turn back around on the chair to face him.

“What was that about? The poor bloke was skipping out of here as if you just took his virginity.”

Laurel playfully winked at him still holding the Styrofoam coffee cup in her hands. “Nope just another satisfied client.” She took a small sip of the black sugarless coffee and swallowed it noticing Tony’s hands were empty. “Did you get any prints from the letter?”

He shook his head in frustration. “Nothing. I thought for sure there would be something but it’s clean. The only prints were Jared’s.”

“What about TSK511? What the hell does that mean?”

“I dunno. Maybe it’s code for something?”

“Send it to Jace. Maybe he can decipher it.” Tony gave his boss a nod and he spun on the heels of his shoes heading out of her office. She spun away returning to look at the television screen and shouted, “Let him know he can decipher it whenever he’s free. Also tell him I hope his father’s health improves.”

Something weighed heavy on her mind about Jared’s situation. Although the blackmailer wasn’t smart enough to give specifics on exactly what they had on the actor, they did give a specific date which gave her four days to find the genius behind the letter. But something else was on her mind. The explanation seemed too vague for this to cause Jared to worry; she couldn’t help but feel as if he was hiding something else. Question was, what exactly is he hiding…and just how deep of trouble is he truly in?

Meanwhile At Derlane Plaza On The 36^th^ Floor:

Darlene Hart grabbed her purse off her dresser and stopped to look at her reflection in the head to toe mirror. The infamous celebrity reporter already had her hair dyed a new tint of blonde and she was gearing up to attend a photo shoot. She opened her apartment door and walked out of it when her cellphone began to ring in her purse. She dug inside and took out her phone answering it quickly. “Hello?” she asked closing and locking the door behind her.

“No absolutely not!” She stated to the person on the other line of the phone.

“I do not want to interview him!…I do not care if he’s Jesus Christ himself, you do not sit there and question my job as a journalist. He can go die for all I care!” Darlene walked down the hallway heading toward the elevator.

Once she reached the panel, she pressed the down button and waited impatiently for the elevator to ascend as the other person begged for her to reconsider her decision from banning an interview with Presidential Elect Victor Reber.

“If the studio suits want those ratings, tell them to have an idiotic reporter take on that interview. I want nothing to do with Reber and his pathetic administration.” The elevator finally made it to Darlene’s floor level and she waited for the doors to slide open.

She hung up the phone and entered the empty elevator. She pressed the lobby button and sighed as the doors began to close.

Many of the San New residents were familiar with the Derlane Plaza because it not only served as an apartment building to the wealthy residents, but many of the offices were also rehearsal studios where casting directors of major blockbuster films would take part in auditions.

The major blockbuster film currently seeking actors was a film titled ‘Mutant Academy Level One’, which is based on a very popular comic book of the same name. The studio, Pandashoot, invested $160 billion into the film and it didn’t take long for actors all across the world to sniff out the news and seek their place in the audition process.

One actor in particular was seventeen year old Mariah Lukers. Mariah was eagerly waiting in the lobby for the elevator to descend as her father stood by her side texting away on his cellphone.

“Did you bring your headshot?” He asked.

“Duh dad!” Mariah whined. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been to an audition! God dad you’re soo lame!”

Her father smirked and shook his head texting away to his mistress making plans to ditch Mariah at the audition and meet up in one of the rooms in the plaza. As long as he gave his daughter his black Amex card, she wouldn’t care if he was kidnapped or killed.

The seventeen-year-old girl cleared her throat and started humming to herself as the elevator was only a few floors away.

“I cannot wait to audition for Sandra. She is such a powerful character. I could really see myself as her. She’s smart, daring, strong and independent.”

Her father paid her no mind as he continued to text away on his phone.

“Oh my God dad! Pay attention you are such a Biff!”

The elevator made it to the lobby floor and her father placed the phone down and smiled at his daughter. “Get excited Sunshine, you’re finally going to be a star.”

The doors opened and Mariah stepped a foot in the elevator and paused in shock as she saw the dead body of Darlene Hart lying face up in a pool of blood. Her Emerald eyes were staring lifelessly at the ceiling of the elevator, she had a huge gash on her throat and blood continued to gush out.

On her stomach was a note that had the words:

One Life Holds Bloody Hands When Death Becomes Her. TSK511.”

Darlene Hart was on her way to a photo shoot celebrating women journalists; an honor that she had worked her whole life to get. Unfortunately, she learned the hard way that not all dreams can truly survive.

The Truth Can Hurt…Sometimes

December 28^th^, 2017

In a red house located in New York City:

Jace opened the refrigerator door of his parent’s house to find it packed with beer, fruits, cooked Latin food, eggs and what he only assumed was leftover Turkey from Thanksgiving.

He took out a bottle of beer and closed the fridge’s door. The past two days was an emotional rollercoaster for the twenty six year old Private Investigator.

Although he and Tony have been dating for a few months, Tony booked a beautiful Hotel suite in Toronto, Canada to surprise Jace. They were going to spend their first Christmas as a couple in the country relaxing, sightseeing and for once in Jace’s life; away from gunfire, knife attacks, madmen, hit men wanting his head on a silver platter and crime Lords. It was going to be an amazing Holiday season that he would’ve remembered for the rest of his life, unfortunately fate had another idea in mind.

Just as Tony was driving toward the airport Jace received a call that his father had a heart attack and was rushed to the emergency room. The Private Investigator didn’t want to cancel the plans but Jace’s sister, Isabella, explained this could be their father’s last holiday.

Jace regretted the decision but he ultimately ended the romantic getaway and instead Tony drove him to New York City to his house in Spanish Harlem.

The Private Investigator tried calling Tony back to apologize but it was to no avail. Tony did send him a text message but it was on the behalf of Laurel, so he didn’t really see that as a proper means of communication.

The curly haired male twisted open the beer bottle and he took a small sip hearing the loud stomping of his older sister coming down the stairs of the house located just outside of the kitchen.

He slowly swallowed the sip and walked to the kitchen door slowly pushing it open.

Seated on a blue and red floral decorated sofa was a woman in her mid-thirties with black short hair, caramel skin and dark brown eyes. She was wearing a pink sweat suit that looked as if it belonged in the trash. The color was faded, some of the fabric was ripped and torn and the designer’s name was completely gone. But to Isabella it was comfortable and she had no regrets about it.

“So before Papi was put to bed he asked about your boyfriend.” Isabella stated trying her hardest not to sound too judgmental at the words that came out of her mouth. She could tolerate and accept many things in the world but two men dating? Two men being intimate with each other? That was against God and it was a pure abomination! She was taught to love people but she refused to accept her baby brother’s dangerous and “sick” lifestyle.

Jace rolled his eyes and took another sip of the beer. “Mmm? What about him?”

“Well I just wanted to make sure he wasn’t coming. Papi might say he doesn’t care but I do. I don’t want you and him in the same house and under the same roof. It’s against God’s word.”

Jace gave his sister a smirk and nodded his head. “Please tell me, because I tend to forget, where did this religious side of you come from again?”

Isabella watched as her brother walked over to the edge of the sofa and sat on the armrest. “I was saved and anointed by the Lord almighty when I was fourteen.”

“Interesting” Jace stated his tone filled with amusement. “It’s interesting to me that you were saved two years before you decided to have sexual relations with our next-door neighbor who was married to Rosita, mommy’s best friend. Except that relationship definitely soured when you decided to get pregnant with his baby, go against Mommy and Papi’s wishes and abort it instead of putting it up for adoption. So please, save that Holy act for someone who has the free time to be entertained by you.”

The words that Jace muttered with no remorse, with no pausing and with no regret caused Isabella to clear her throat and shift away from him on the sofa. She tried to think of a comeback or let alone say something that would make him see that his lifestyle choice was disgusting but her train of thought was cut off when Jace’s cellphone began to ring.

Letting out a sigh of relief Jace grabbed the phone off the brown coffee table and saw the name ‘Laurel’ on the caller ID; he placed the beer bottle on the table and answered the phone quickly. “Hey Laurel!”

“Jace! Hey, I’m sorry for calling you. How is your father doing?” Laurel asked out of concern.

“He’s doing well at the moment. Just resting as we speak. Thank you for asking.”

“Of course. Are you available to chat?”

Jace got up from the armchair and he walked toward the house door.

“We aren’t finished speaking.” Isabella stated as Jace opened the front door of the house.

Jace turned around and glared at his sister. “I was done the moment I set foot in this house.” He stated and with that, he walked out of the house closing the door behind him.

“Is this a bad time?” Laurel asked from the other line.

Jace walked out onto the porch as snow continued to fall from the grey clouds. “Every second I waste in this house is a bad time but other than that, this time is great.”

“Fantastic! I wanted to see if you were able decipher that code Tony sent you the other day?”

Jace shook his head telling her “No” softly. “I ran it through every database I could find. Chatrooms, Twitter accounts, MeTube user names and nothing. I have some connections with people who enjoy hanging out in the dark web. I can give them a call and see if they can find anyone with that name.”

“That would be great thank you so much Jace! I’ll have Tony help out once he gets back from Toronto.”

Jace’s heart skipped a beat at her words and he blinked quickly in shock. “Tony went to Toronto? Did you send him there or-“

“No not at all. He said he wanted to go. I guess he just needed time away from San New. I don’t blame him-“

Jace heard a loud Ding, from Laurel’s phone. “I have a visitor. Look just focus on taking care of your dad and enjoy the holiday. Worry about all that work stuff for the New Year. Thanks again Jace.”

“Yeah, you do too.” Jace hung up the cellphone and he looked out into the morning blizzard that was hiding away all of the houses on the block.

No buildings, cars, birds, trees or even shops were visible through the onslaught of snowflakes that blinded his sight. But Jace didn’t care about the blizzard or the fact that he was stuck in New York City with his dying father and bigot sister, his mind was on the fact Tony went to Toronto without him.

So far Jace had no idea what exactly was going on. He had survived being shot at, stabbed, blown up, set on fire, thrown off of a roof, getting hit by a car and even a poisoned apple-don’t ask- one thing that he vowed to never destroy him; was a man breaking his heart and taking advantage of him.

He turned away from the blizzard and re-entered the house calming himself down.

Laurel Quinn hung up her cellphone turning around from the television screen she was watching a few minutes ago and smiled as she watched Fashion Designer Barelis Gooran enter the office of Publicity!

The flamboyant fifty eight year old man strutted into the office wearing a bright yellow pastel tuxedo suit with bright pink pastel framed glasses and a neon yellow pair of loafers. On top of his baldhead was a bright yellow fedora covered in pink pastel polka dots.

“There she is!” He sang out as Laurel walked out of her office to greet him. “There is my Rose Bud.” He out stretched his arms to give her a hug and she willingly hugged him tightly. Laurel had known Barelis for more than a decade and it wasn’t because he was her client but because she was his.

Every dress and every pair of stiletto shoes that she wore with pride, strength and assertiveness were designed by him.

Barelis met Laurel when she was starting as a freshman in college and he was great friends with her mother, the late Oscar Award winning actress Elizabeth Quinn. Ever since they first met, Barelis fell in love with her long legs and have vowed to make Laurel the face of his designer dresses and stilettos. A notion she quickly objected to as her career was more involved with Publicity!, rather than just sitting down and smiling into a camera.

Laurel pulled away from the hug smiling. “What are you doing in my neck of the woods?”

The designer placed his hands back by his sides and smiled revealing his pale white teeth and he shook his head playfully. “Drama as usual. Trust me I need your-“ He stopped speaking and looked over at Tony’s empty desk and he lowered his eyebrows. “Where is that hot British assistant of yours?”

“He’s out of town.”

Barelis let out an over the top gasp and clenched his chest in shock. “You’re functioning without an assistant? How on Earth will you get through the day? Even worse! – Who will get you coffee?”

“I assure you Barelis, Tony’s position here is far more than fetching me coffee. Now back to your presence.”

Barelis nodded his head and he lowered his voice to a whisper trying to make sure no one else heard what he was going to say-although no one else was around. “You see…I did something-well… said something very bad and it can potentially ruin me.”

Laurel stared at him, “Please tell me you didn’t sign up to host another ‘Natural Animal Rights Peep’ dinner. You have fur and leather in your collections.”

“Oh no, this isn’t like that dinner. Which by the way I assure you it would’ve gone amazing if stupid singer Sarah Magoogle didn’t freaking ‘out’ my winter collection as having fur.”

“Well you weren’t going to fool them by saying it was faux fur. They can sniff dead animals from miles away, you know that.”

Barelis nodded regretfully remembering the mistake he made about that situation and he pointed toward her office. “Can we talk about it in there?”

“Sure.” Laurel turned around and walked back into her office as Barelis followed her in and sat on the chair in front of her desk. He let out a nervous sigh as Laurel leaned against the edge of her large chestnut desk facing him. “Okay, what’s going on?”

Barelis had done many shows throughout his thirty-eight year career as a high fashion designer. He met many elite clienteles, dressed politicians, dictators, prime ministers and various celebrities that would make many people jealous. This time he was nervous, his palms were sweaty and his voice cracked as if he was about to cry. Laurel had never seen him in this current state. He was over the top, loud and at times obnoxious but something was bothering him and Laurel didn’t like it.

He placed his hands on his lap and finally took in a deep breath. “I did an interview with ‘Chic Galore’ magazine and I told the columnist that I voted for…I voted for Victor Reber in the Presidential Elections and I’m afraid once that gets printed…my career is over!”

His words took Laurel by surprise and she got off her desk and walked over to her chair as her mind began to wrap itself around what Barelis just confessed. While she made her way to her throne-sized chair the designer couldn’t help but admire the black and white striped dress the Crisis Manager had on. The dress shaped her curves and it wasn’t tight in her chest area or suppressing any part of her body, it was a perfect fit! On her feet was a pair of black leather stilettos and Barelis shook his head appreciating the beauty of his work.

“Seriously, how are you single wearing that? The combination of that dress and those shoes from my winter collection; makes you the Belle of the ball.”

Laurel sat down on her chair and smirked at the compliment (?) he paid her.

“Who wants to be Belle? It’s the Beast who has all the fun.” She stated causing him to nod appreciating how sweetly insane this woman was.

He cleared his mind and focused on the reason he was there at the office. “The LGBTQ Community will have my head if they find out I voted for him, let alone the mere fact I support him will really make them hate me.”

Laurel agreed with him. President Reber had made it known throughout his campaign run that he was against same sex marriage and being a Christian, he was against the entire Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Questioning Community. Which was ironic since throughout his campaign run he was pictured many times holding the rainbow pride flag. But that was politics.

“Oh they would definitely flip out on you.” She said leaning back on the chair.

“Exactly!” Barelis snapped. “I need you to work your magic Quinzy and get that article retracted fast before they print the magazines.”

“Okay.” Laurel said calmly and she smiled warmly at him. “But I’m not going to call anyone and that article isn’t getting retracted. They will print it as planned.”

Barelis jumped to his feet clearly offended and a little hurt. “Are you insane?!”

Laurel dismissed his words and he stopped speaking realizing that she had not one shred of guilt or remorse on her face.

He slowly sat back down on the chair and looked at her pleading. “Did you not hear me when I said the Gays will burn me at the stake?”

“Oh I heard you, but you’re looking at this all wrong. That article and your quote will be released, the blogs and news will definitely go crazy at what you had to say and that will lead to many, many, many boycotts…as well as success.”

Barelis lowered his eyebrows, “How so?” Hearing about success caught his interest in many ways.

“Honestly? Your sales haven’t been too great since your last collection. I’m saying this as a longtime friend. Now as your Crisis Manager, the public finding out about your support for Reber will cause backlash that is inevitable, but right now as you can see, the Nation is divided.”

He listened to each of her words carefully as he tried to make sense about them but so far, he didn’t see the same silver lining as she did.

“ People all around the world are scared this mini Hitler might make things worse for the Nation-if that is even possible- and because of this, no one in their right minds are opening their mouths saying they support him. This is resulting in many designers refusing to dress him and his wife. But you, my pastel wearing friend, can wait until it is revealed you support him and watch all those crazy, racists and bigot Republicans buy every single piece of your clothing. You will be their hero.”

The older designer rubbed his hairless chin thinking about what she said.

The Crisis Manager was right. The Republicans have boycotted so many companies and celebrities that voiced their hatred for the Presidential Elect and this has caused a huge division amongst the Nation between them and Democrats. The Republicans are all joining forces with other Reber supporters and it would be an amazing idea for Barelis to throw his hat in that ring and benefit financially from the opportunity.

It wouldn’t be the first time a celebrity used Reber’s name as an attention seeking tactic, all he needed was to design a dress with the Presidential Elect’s name on it for an actress to wear and there goes all the free publicity…who in their right mind would wear a dress with someone’s name in huge letters on it for fun? Only a person seeking attention and to benefit from the outcome. After all, any publicity is amazing publicity!

He clapped his hands together loving the idea and feeling so much better about it. “Sounds amazing! Do I have your word you’ll be my knight in shining armor when the magazines and people bash me?”

Laurel smiled nodding her head slowly. “You have my word I promise. I’ll be there when the crap hits the fan.”

That was all Barelis needed to hear. He rose to his feet finally feeling free and sane. He opened his mouth to thank her but he froze in shock at the tv behind her that was on mute. The color in his face flushed out at the headline on the screen, he dropped his jaw at the screen and stared at it in shock.

Laurel noticed his reaction and she swiveled in her chair to face the screen and saw the same thing he did. She let out a gasp and placed her hands over her mouth. “Oh my God!”

Back in New York City: Eleven Hours Later (8:15pm)

The blizzard, which hit New York City hours ago, finally calmed down. The heavy onslaught of snow that blinded many New Yorkers was now just a few flurries.

Jace walked down the stairs of his parent’s house pulling a suitcase behind him.

“I really wish you would stay.” Isabella said following him down the stairs.

“Why? So you can send me to Hell? I get a lot of them from the husbands I find cheating on their wives.” Jace zipped up his purple hooded coat and made his way toward the door of the house.

Isabella nervously outstretched her right hand as if she could stop him telekinetically. She let out a sigh and shook her head.

Jace turned the doorknob and pulled open the door yanking the suitcase behind him as he stepped onto the porch closing the house door.

He stopped in shock, confusion and excitement as he saw Tony walking toward the porch of the house. “Tony? What are you doing here?”

Tony had a red beanie on his head that Jace never seen before and he wore a black coat that wasn’t necessarily thick enough to keep him warm. He smiled as he walked up the three steps of the porch to stand before the Private Investigator.

“I wanted to surprise you. I felt it was selfish of me to head back home when you needed me most. Laurel reminded me-well she really threatened me. But what I’m trying to bloody say, is that I really like you Jace and I want to be your rock. Your support and your-.“ Tony stopped when he noticed the suitcase behind Jace. He redirected his attention back to the twenty six year old in front of him. “Were you leaving? I thought you were staying here until January third?”

“You didn’t hear?” Jace asked nervously which caused Tony’s heart to beat fast as if he was expecting terrible news.

“No, I didn’t hear anything. What’s going on?”

“Darlene Hart was murdered.”

Tony let out a gasp in disbelief “Wait what?”

Jace nodded, “I was going to head back to San New to find out what exactly is going on. She was actually a person of interest in a case I was working on last month. Maybe her death is connected to that.”

“Alright. Let’s go I’m parked down the street.” Tony grabbed Jace’s suitcase and walked down the stairs onto the snow-covered walkway leading away from the house of Jace’s family.

Jace took one final look back at the house he spent fifteen years of his life in. The same house that held more negative memories than good. The same house that felt more like a prison than a home. The same house where he vowed to never return to and now with the final hours of his father slowly approaching, Jace was happy to know; he would never have to come back, again.

The Naked Truth

December 29^th^, 2017:

“You’re not going to make it out of here alive, V.A, Gina!” a man shouted from afar.

A blonde woman hid behind a black leather couch panting nervously, well sort of.

Her panting was more like small moans as if his threat was secretly giving her pleasure. Apparently, she was a police officer although her attire consisted of a police shirt that was very low cut, a push up bra that pushed up her breasts causing it be higher toward her chin, short sequin covered shorts that barely hid her assets and in her hands; was a pink and white bedazzled gun.

“Give it up Dr. Bigincher! Your days of gang banging on the streets of ‘MourningWoode’ are over. I’m going to arrest you ooooooooh, and you will be punished in the appropriate mann-“

Without warning a light fixture from the industrial ceiling above them, fell and crashed onto the ground a few feet away from the officer and thug. Both people flinched and the woman stood up from the ground facing away from the culprit. “Dammit Brix! I thought you fixed that from last week!”

A loud beep was heard causing everyone within the studio to stop what he or she was doing and evaluate the mishap.

An older man got off the director’s seat and he walked over toward the actress, “My apologies Patty. This won’t happen again.”

“You’re damn right this won’t happen again! If it does I will quit! Do you hear me? Quit! I don’t need this crap. There were no safety violations over at Bullhung studios.”

The director nodded his head sympathizing with the scantily clad actress. “I know, just please give us a chance. You have my word this won’t happen again. How about we all take ten and come back so we can film the big scene?”

Patty rolled her eyes and placed her hands on her slender hips.

The light fixture falling could’ve happened anytime on set. It could’ve been when she was filming the capture scene or when she was filming the money shot. In other words, she could have died a very gruesome death!

She let out a sigh of frustration and gave the director a reassuring nod. “Fine. But make sure this glass is cleaned up. I will not lay on my back or get on my knees if there is glass on the floor!”

Patty turned around and made her way toward a large brown table where a pink bedazzled cotton robe laid. She grabbed the robe and placed it over her body quickly tying it closed.

Patty Valentine had been working in the adult industry since she was twenty-two years old. This film ‘V.A. Gina Vs Dr. Bigincher’ was going to break her three hundred movie streak but it was going to be hard to do if she gets severely injured or worse on set.

As she made sure every part of her body was safely tucked inside of the robe, the sound of high heels echoing from the outside of the studio could be heard on set.

“Who the hell is wearing heels?” She asked out angrily causing the crew to look at her in fear and confusion. “I specifically put it in my contract that no one; I repeat no one wears heels except me!” Her speech was caught off when she saw a woman wearing a black trench coat enter the set.

Who the hell is this?!’ Patty thought to herself.

The woman looked around the set filled with half naked actors-some were not really half-naked- and she was clearly looking for someone.

Patty didn’t care who the woman was, she was the only one who was supposed to be in heels and by the looks of it, this Auburn haired woman could possibly be a new actress trying to make her big break. She certainly had the long legs, beautiful face and God knows what she was truly hiding underneath that trench coat.

Patty realized that some of the crewmembers as well as her costar Douglas Nasir were slowly taking an interest in this mysterious woman.

The adult actress cleared her throat and walked toward the woman. “This is a closed set and I’m not sure who sent you or what you’ve heard but the studio isn’t auditioning anyone for this film.” Patty’s tone was filled with assertiveness and she was very confrontational for no apparent reason.

The woman gave Patty a smirk and looked her up and down, from her clear latex six-inch stiletto shoes to the messy over the top blonde hair. “Hmmm. Bad attitude and horrible perfume. You must be Patty Valentine.”

Trying not to take offense to what the woman said she gave her an impatient nod. “Glad you know me. Now what’s it to ya?”

“My name is Laurel Quinn and your ex-boyfriend Adam Ritter sent me.”

Patty let out a chuckle. “Ha! That bastard really did move on didn’t he?” She stepped a few inches toward Laurel so she was staring deep into her eyes trying to intimidate the woman. “So let me guess, he knocked you up and now you’re here to tell me to back away? Well let me tell you something Red, if you’re here to intimidate me it isn’t going to work.”

Laurel wiped off a small spot of spit that flew out of Patty’s mouth and landed on her right cheek. “Rest assured Carmen Electra, I’m not here because I’m with Adam. Trust me I would break him in two seconds.” She stated. “I’m actually a Crisis Manager and he hired me because you’re extorting him.”

Patty quickly looked around the set and noticed that the crewmembers didn’t hear anything Laurel said because they were too busy admiring the woman’s figure. She rolled her eyes and looked at Laurel. “Can we talk about this in private?”

“That would be an appropriate idea.”

Patty tied her robe again and walked through a red door, which was opened already to let in the cold winter air. Laurel followed her as most of the crewmembers watched in admiration and envy as both women left the set and made their way to an RV parked only a few feet away from the opened door.

“I know it isn’t as luxurious as to what those Hollywood snobs in West San New have but it’s cozy.” Patty stated as she pushed the RV’s door open and walked up three steps leading into the small cozy space.

Laurel didn’t mind the space nor did she care about the size of the RV since she wasn’t there on pleasurable terms but instead strictly for business.

She got up the steps and walked over to a small sitting area where she sat down and Patty sat on the sink’s counter just a few feet away from Laurel.

“Okay, so I know why you’re here but what exactly are you hoping to get out of this meeting?” Patty asked clearly not happy.

“ As I said, Adam hired me because you’re extorting him for $7.5 million a month. If he refuses to those terms you-as I understand- will tell the media all about the-erm- intimate details of when you two were together.”

Patty gave her a quick nod never once denying any claims.

Adam Ritter is known throughout San New, Los Angeles, Canada and New York City as ‘Dr.Molecule’. He is the host of the science fact show ‘Chemistryville’, which is a show geared towards children from ages of 1-14 and he teaches them all about Chemistry, Biology, and any Science the Public Education system puts on their curriculum. The show has been a smash hit for over eight years and Adam has become a household name for many, many mothers- for obvious reasons.

A scandal like this could ruin everything Adam had worked hard for not because he was dating an adult actress but because parents never enjoy hearing about the sexual exploitations of others.

“Yes and I was being generous. I deserve a lot more.”

“Do you? If I’m not mistaken, you two were never married. You were dating for a year and a half and even then, you two never had a child together. So you’re not even entitled to a ‘Hello’ on the street.”

“I don’t understand why he is so reluctant to pay me a dime. He and I were private in our relationship. Not even the limo driver knew we were dating, I mean that alone is enough to have me press charges against him citing emotional and psychotic abuse. I’ll tell the judge and even the geezers on Mox News how Adam didn’t want anyone to know we were dating and he kept me locked in a room, so that no paparazzi would photograph us together.” Patty smirked in victory at the mere thought of all the damage she could do to ruin this man’s reputation and she knew at the moment, Laurel would have to convince Adam to give her the money she wanted.

The Crisis Manager nodded listening to the woman’s words that echoed off the walls of the musky smelling RV. “You’re right. With those claims Adam’s entire reputation could be jeopardized. He would be seen as ‘manipulative, possessive, controlling and dominant’ . Which would in turn form a huge backlash from the mothers who let their children watch his program…-“. She straightened her posture and gave Patty a smirk, “-But that wouldn’t necessarily work on your end because I will gladly go on the record and share with the public a fictitious story on how you were addicted to painkillers and were abusive towards Adam. Not only will that make you the most hated person on the planet, it will give Adam more sympathy and increase his fan base. The interesting thing is-because I am amazing at my job- none of anything I say can be true but I am such a gifted liar that I can come up with thirty lies and have evidence to support each and every one of them!”

Patty didn’t know if she should admire this woman or fear her- but one thing Patty never did in her life was fear anyone. She flashed Laurel a devilish grin realizing the Auburn haired woman wasn’t backing down. “I’ll tell everyone the truth about our sex life. Not only will that ruin him but it will also make him a laughing stock in the entire world. So it’s your choice Red. Get on your phone and tell Adam he better pay up.”

Laurel let out a small snicker as if Patty had said something that amused yet baffled her at the same time. “What in the world are you gaining from blackmailing him?”

Patty arched her right eyebrow at the stupid question that came out of the Crisis Manager’s mouth. “Money obviously!”

“I am aware of that.” Laurel stated controlling her anger and sarcasm from coming out. “But you’re doing it all for the wrong reasons.”

Patty crossed her arms across her chest in frustration. “And you’re a professional at extortion all of a sudden?”

Laurel had to restrain herself from answering the question the original way she wanted to. She had to remind herself about the ‘Professional Etiquette Video’ Tony made her watch last week. She kept on the smile and began to speak in a calm tone, “Not at all but you must remember you work in an industry that strives in secrets. An industry where many actors-like yourself- are trying to make an honest living and here you are; seconds away from destroying your own career for greed. After all, this industry doesn’t like a pair of loose lips-no pun intended.”

“Greed?” Patty chuckled shaking her head. “Greed isn’t the reason I’m doing this. That son of a bitch broke my heart!”

Have you ever seen those commercials on television about some prescription drug that would help you get relief from constipation? In the commerciall, the paid actor would describe having a realization about his bowel movements and he called it his ‘Aha Moment’. Well this moment didn’t require anyone to care for their bowel movements but Laurel had her own ‘Aha moment’ when Patty proclaimed that Adam ‘broke her heart’.

What the Adult Actress didn’t know was that Adam told Laurel the entire story and it differed from anything that Patty was saying.

Adam and Patty dated for a year and a half. Throughout that time Adam was falling for the blonde bombshell. He enjoyed everything about her and he even wanted to come out of the “Dating Closet” to let the world know who the lucky woman was, but Patty didn’t want to. She was scared if she was seen as being in a relationship, all chances she had on upcoming movie deals would be scrapped once everyone saw she was in a monogamous relationship.

Because of this decision, she decided to break up with Adam never wanting to see him again. It was a hurtful decision for her to make but at the end of the day, her career was more important. However, Laurel knew the Adult Actress’ attitude toward Adam changed when it was revealed last month; he was now going out with Pop Singer Elizabeth Glitters; a new relationship that made Patty both furious and jealous!

Laurel cleared her throat not at all because it was dried but mainly because she wanted to say something that she felt would’ve really hurt the actress, so she chose to just clear her throat and choose her words carefully. “You and I both know, he didn’t break your heart. He didn’t even cheat on you. You were the one that dumped him to save your precious career.”

“Because at the end of the day, what I’ll have is my career not some stupid man who will wake up one day next to me and realize I’m worthless! He’ll then leave me without even a goodbye.”

It was evident Patty had some unresolved issues from a past relationship but Laurel wasn’t there to be her therapist. “Whatever issues you have with whatever demons you’re fighting; it has nothing to do with Adam. I’ve met him and he is a genuine sweet guy; and this is coming from someone who can’t stand Hollywood men. He did love you and it hurt him when you chose your career over the future you two could’ve had. But that choice was made and that ship sailed. Right now a man who didn’t think he could ever find someone like you, found someone who makes him happy –for whatever Godly reason- and you have to be the bigger woman here and move on. Leave the past behind you.”

Patty knew everything Laurel said was correct. She spent so much time thinking about getting revenge on the man who hurt her in the past that she was sabotaging her image in the eyes of Adam. Patty hated many things in life, like obesity, sugar, empty calories, hairy men and men with beer bellies; but one thing she hated more than anything was swallowing her pride and apologizing. She took in a deep breath and spoke, “Fine! I’ll…I’ll leave Adam alone. I don’t need his damn money anyway.”

Laurel didn’t think she had anything else to say. The job was pretty much done and if Patty decides to back track in the future and blackmail Adam again or go straight to the public, Laurel had a few plans stashed away.

“Well, that’s all I came here for.” Laurel said smiling as she got up from the small couch and Patty stood up straight admiring the woman in front of her.

“You have balls Ms. Quinn. Not a lot of women can have the courage to do what you do. It’s fascinating to see not all women can be judgmental of me. If you were anyone else, they would’ve treated me like I was nothing. Not you. You spoke to me as if I was someone…a human.”

The Crisis Manager couldn’t put herself in the plastic clear stiletto shoes of the blonde bombshell, all she could imagine were the side eye glances the woman must get on a daily basis, the whispers and gasps following her as she made her way down the street and of course the judgment she gets from other women.

“I’m many things in this world but being judgmental or thinking I’m better than anyone else? Never. We all bleed the same color, we all hurt and we all die. So why would I ever put myself on a higher pedestal than anyone else? Especially a woman whom is standing her ground and doing everything in her power to make it in this world. You’re beautiful and from what I can see you are very talented acting wise.” Laurel opened up her black designer purse and took out a small business card. She handed it to Patty who took it in her hand and read it.

“I could use someone like you. Give me a call when you get tired of the baby oil and douchebags.”

Patty smiled at the Crisis Manager, “No pun intended?”

Laurel gave her a shrug and walked down the steps opening the door of the RV and she closed it behind her.

Patty looked down at the business card she held in her hand and smiled to herself contemplating the next step in her life.

Laurel thanked Goddess her Purple Mercedes Benz was parked only a few feet away from the RV because the last thing she wanted was to walk back through the set and be gawked at again.

She walked to her car in her confident stride one hundred percent positive that Patty would make the right decision, before she would reach for the handle of the car’s door her cellphone began to ring.

Placing her purse on the roof of the car Laurel dug inside and took out her cellphone, she saw the caller ID read ‘Tony’ and she swiped the answer button. “Why are you calling me? I gave you a full week off with pay.”

“I know! Jace and I decided to return back to San New.”

“Why the hell would you two decide to do that?”

“He found out about Darlene Hart’s death and – well to make a long story short, he found something very interesting and I think you need to come and take a look.”

“How bad is it?” Laurel asked her tone was filled with curiosity and smothered in fear.

“Just get back to the office as quickly as possible.”

“Okay see you soon.” Laurel hung up the phone and threw it back in her purse. She quickly pulled open the driver’s door to her car and entered not even wanting to think about what Jace could’ve found and why Tony was invested in it.

Ten Minutes Later:

Laurel stepped out of the elevator as she had done many times before, this time she was speeding and her heart was racing. Tony didn’t sound like himself on the phone and he was hell-bent on surprising Jace in New York City, question was what could’ve been so important that could’ve cut the vacation short?

She made her way toward the glass door of the agency where she was greeted by her assistant Tony Vincetti. He wasn’t dressed up as normal with a buttoned up shirt and a tie, instead he wore a red and black v neck shirt and his hair was ruffled as if he had spent too many times running his fingers through it in frustration.

“Seriously, I lied to Jace to make sure you surprised him.”

“Yeah we’ll talk about that later.” Jace stated as he stood up from Tony’s chair and walked over to Laurel. “But right now you need to see this.” He handed her a clear zip lock bag that contained a bloody note and she took it from him.

“What is this?”

“That’s the note that was found on Darlene’s body.” Jace replied.

Laurel’s eyes widened and she stared at the Private Investigator completely shocked at what he just confessed to her. “How were you able obtain this from the Police?”

Jace flashed her a sinister grin. “Do you really want to know?”

Laurel had learned many things and throughout those life lessons, it was to never ask a Private Investigator how they were able to get the information they did.

She shook her head answering the question and looked back down at the handwritten letter in her hand.

“Good.” Jace said taking a breath indicating that he was going to continue on speaking. “Now I dug deeper into the dark web thanks to my techy friend and I found out that TSK isn’t some sound I make when I see Keyan West ranting about his low record sales. It’s actually an acronym.”

“An acronym? For what exactly?”

The Star Katchers. Instead of spelling it with a ‘C’ they use a ‘K.”

Tony shook his head crossing his arms across his chest. “Bloody illiterates.”

Laurel couldn’t help agree with her assistant. “Is this all you found?”

“Not at all. The code 5/11 isn’t a code or a date. It’s a chapter and verse in the Bible. Ephesians Chapter five verse eleven to be exact. ”

There was a moment of silence that fell upon the room for a mere twenty seconds as Laurel tried to wrap her head around the fact that Jace even knew anything about the Bible. He noticed how shocked she was and he shrugged his shoulders. “When you get the Bible thrown at you on a daily basis you tend to pick it up and read it a few times. Anyways, the quote says: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of Darkness, but rather expose them.

The Crisis Manager furrowed her eyebrows as she heard him quote the verse. “So we’re dealing with a Lunatic West Boro member?”

“Yes and no“. Jace continued. “I compared the note found on Darlene to the note in the actor’s mailbox and while the first note was typed, this one was written. Not to mention the numbers were written differently as well. “

“You think we’re dealing with a Bonnie and Clyde situation?” Tony finally asked never once hearing about the new deduction Jace had until now.

The twenty six year old shook his head, “At first I did. But based on the name as well the notes and the phrasings…I think we’re dealing with a Cult.”

Tony let out a small gasp shaking his head. “Are you Bloody kidding? A cult? What would a Cult get out of blackmailing and murdering people?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Jace asked turning to face Tony. “This Cult, ‘The Star Katchers’ have targets and from what I’ve seen in their chatrooms as well as the news…Their targets aren’t celebrities or commercials actors. Their target?…Is Hollywood.”

Laurel looked down at the bloody note in her hand and sighed in frustration. Scandals? She can handle that. Extortion? She can handle that. Ex-husbands who hired a hit man to kill her? She handled that already. But a killer Cult? She might have to drink a few more black coffees before she could deal with that situation. Assuming of course, that time isn’t running out.

That Fateful Day

December 30^th^, 2017

[The following interaction is seen on a plasma television screen in a motel room. An interview is being conducted between Mox News Reporter Eileen Umerna and Crisis Manager Laurel Quinn. Eileen is interviewing Laurel on live television.]

Eileen: (smiles at the camera) “Hello and Good Morning San New! I am so excited to be joined today by Crisis Manager Laurel Quinn. (Turns to Laurel smiling) Thank you so much for joining us.”

Laurel: (smiles warmly at Eileen) “Thank you so much for having me here Eileen.”

Eileen: “Of course! (Faces the camera) The reason for Ms. Quinn joining us today is because of the shocking scandal that has taken place concerning teen heartthrob Justin Austin. For those of you who are unaware, Justin’s phone was hacked and intimate pictures as well as videos were leaked online. Because of this, the President of NBZ studios has decided to suspend Justin indefinitely from the show ‘2Hearts1Love’, which is the show he is currently starring in. (turns to Laurel) What are your thoughts on this scandal as well as NBZ’s decision?”

Laurel: “If I may be honest Eileen, that was an idiotic decision on their part. This actor is only eighteen years old and instead of the studio and President doing their best to support him during this difficult time, they choose to reprimand him for something he had no control over.”

Eileen[+:+] “So what you’re saying-and please correct me if I’m wrong- is that the Studio should have done everything in their power to defend Justin?”

Laurel: (nods her head slowly) “Absolutely. At the end of the day, Justin Austin is more than a marketing scheme. He’s more than dollar signs. He is a human being. A human that was thrown under the bus.”

Eileen: “That is interesting to hear. Many people especially the parents of the young girls who are his fans, disagree with the suspension decision of NBZ and they’re calling for the removal of Justin from the show.”

Laurel: “Which in my opinion is total bull (BLEEP!). I apologize for swearing, but the truth of the matter is; if this was an actress who had her nudes leaked the studio and fans would make a hashtag for her on Twitter saying something along the line as ‘#IStandWithJennifer’. But because Justin is an eighteen year old male they’re punishing him. It’s disgusting.”

Eileen: (nods listening carefully to her words) “How is Justin taking all of this? He hasn’t been active on any social media platforms speaking out on this situation.”

Laurel: “He is currently back home in Colorado spending time with his family and friends. What nobody thinks about when a scandal like this occurs is the fact the victim-because that’s what Justin is- ends up feeling fragile, exposed and victimized; meanwhile the people at NBZ aren’t making any of this easier on him.”

Eileen: “Do you believe this scandal will have a major negative impact on Justin’s career?”

Laurel: “Absolutely not! Because of this scandal, three major networks have expressed interest in him to take part in amazing projects and even Dr. Jill is interested in doing a segment on young men who are sexually victimized just like Justin was. Aside from that, he also met with eight-time Academy Award writer Benjamin Jolie. While I cannot tell you what was discussed in the meeting I can say that this isn’t slowing him down, because he did absolutely nothing wrong.”

Eileen: “Do you believe sexting is something that should have harsh punishments to both the hacker as well as the (uses fingers to demonstrate air quotes) “victims” to prevent a scandal like this from ever happening again?”

Laurel: “Justin is an eighteen year old male who works seventy two hours a week sometimes even longer on set. He wasn’t out here scaling the Valley for some desperate easy fan girls looking to have a good time. Instead he decided to stay in and –let’s say the word Eileen because we are all adults here- he stood home and chose to masturbate.”

Eileen: (shifts uncomfortably in her chair) “Th-That’s the truth and I am not countering your claim Ms. Quinn, but as an actor who stars in a popular teen drama he should’ve known better because he has a reputation to uphold.”

Laurel: “Since when does starring in a highly successful show make you God? He wasn’t drinking and driving, he wasn’t doing drugs, he wasn’t smoking cigarettes and he wasn’t caught on a hot mic bragging about groping women.“

Eileen[+:+] “Not at all. It was just a mistake that cost him-“

Laurel: “Nope. (shakes head in disagreement) I refuse to label what he did as a mistake. He kept those videos on his phone where it was locked and he sent them not to any strange girl but to his girlfriend. What he did wasn’t a mistake, the only mistake in all of this was the hacker or hackers responsible for this attack. And believe you me- (faces camera) – the FBI is heavily investigating this and those responsible will be apprehended. You may have balls but mine are bigger. There’s nowhere to hide so know that I’m coming for you and I will not stop until I see blood.”

Laurel’s hazel eyes were filled with anger and she wasn’t backing down from any of her words that even scared Eileen.

A person wearing a black hooded jacket threw a red and black mug at the television screen in frustration. The image of Laurel froze as the shattered pieces of the mug and television screen fell unto the dirty burgundy carpets. The person picked up a black duffle bag and stormed out of the motel room slamming shut the door.

Not a few feet away from the motel bed was a body on the ground, faced down with a sharp knife in his back. The body was of Hollywood film director Mark Affleck, a man famously known for his Oscar award winning films and it wasn’t until two months ago he ventured into the career of directing music videos. He was excited to start his first day of Elizabeth Glitters’ new music video. Tragically he waited in vain.

Two Hours Later:

Laurel entered her office and it was surprisingly quiet and empty. Everything that Jace discovered and told her about The Star Katchers remained in the back of her mind as she made her way through the city. She had no doubts they were also the culprits responsible for Justin’s photos being leaked and it made her wonder, just how powerful these people truly are and what they stood for.

The Crisis Manager placed her black designer purse on her desk and let out a sigh of relief as she kicked off her red and white stiletto shoes. Every time she did a live interview, she made sure to look professional and most importantly to look more radiant. This wasn’t to get compliments or to boost her self-esteem but it was to attract her clients. Her poise demeanor, enterprising person attitude, determination and drive were enough to attract the attention of any client within the industry to hire her for whatever scandal they were currently being haunted by.

The outfit she went with was a white dress, wrapped with a black and red leather belt around her waist. It was an exclusive by Barelis that he couldn’t wait to unveil to the world. Her hair was pinned up in a bun that really bothered her head.

She pulled a few bobby pins from the bottom of the bun and within seconds her Auburn shoulder length hair dropped to the back of her head. She placed the pins on her desk, combed her fingers through her hair and paused as she heard a Ding, coming from the entrance of the office.

I just want three minutes to myself is that so hard?’ Laurel thought to herself as she placed her feet back inside of the stiletto shoes. “I’ll be right out!” She called out trying not to topple over as she got her left foot in and then her right.

She gave Tony the day off so he could spend time with Jace and hopefully get their minds off the T.S.K at least for a day. She could survive without an assistant so it wasn’t a problem for her that he wasn’t there.

Laurel took off her black short trench coat, threw it on her chair and walked out of her personal office and into the waiting area where she saw a tall, rugged and handsome man looking around the neatly decorated pink and black waiting area.

The man was no older than thirty five years old, he stood at 6ft and 2 inches tall, had dark brown eyes, short black hair and scruffy facial hair that was kept at a minimal length indicating to Laurel that he regularly grooms it.

The man’s attire consisted of a black leather jacket that was zipped up to his chest, blue jeans and black boots. He flashed a sincere smile as she asked, “Hello, can I help you?”

“Hello yes. Are you Laurel Quinn?” He had somewhat of a Boston accent that she could pick up. Hearing authentic accents in San New was like searching for a straight man in a Lady Gaga concert; rare.

She gave him a slow nod trying to size him up and read his body language to determine why he was there. “Yes, Yes I am. Are you here for an emergency? I ask because I normally don’t take clients that are walk-ins, unless it’s an emergency.”

The man lowered his eyebrows at her words as if she had said something crazy. “Clients?” He looked again around the empty waiting area. “Please tell me you aren’t a Madam.”

Laurel wasn’t sure if this man was clueless or stupid. She had seen her fair share of attractive men who had a lot to offer in the looks department but sadly, their brains were fried due to their constant blow-dried hair.

“I’m a Crisis Manager. Various people come to me when they have a crisis that needs fixing and I’m there to help make that scandal goes away or just to alter their reputation from bad to good.” She paused. “Look, I would love to stand here and explain more about my job to you, but I am currently wiped out and I just want to go home and lay down. So if whatever you’re going through isn’t an emergency then please take my business card on your way out and call back to make an appointment.”

The tall man gave her a nod and he unzipped his black leather jacket to reveal his blue t-shirt, he lifted up the shirt not only revealing his black leather belt and a quick view of his abs covered with some body hair, but hanging on his right jean pocket was a gold police badge.

“My name is Detective Oliver Morales and I am with the Borger County Police. I’m here to ask you a couple of questions about your husband David Jimberman.”

Laurel felt her heart skip a beat and she felt as if the room was spinning around her.

She knew immediately one thing was certain; she wasn’t going home anytime soon.

Forbidden Love Can Kill You

December 30^th^, 2017 (3:15pm):

Do not come to the office!”

Laurel sent the text to her assistant Tony Vincetti and placed the phone next to her coffee machine. She took the warm coffee pot and poured some of the black coffee into a pink mug, that had the Publicity! name branded on it. She placed the pot back on the coffee machine and picked the mug up by its handle.

“My apologies-” Laurel said as she walked out of the waiting area and into her personal office to find Detective Oliver Morales seated on the same chair many of her clients sat in. The same chair where many of them poured out their souls to her, shed tears and hired her to take on scandals that weren’t ever made public; scandals that were more than likely illegal.

The handsome Detective stood up to his feet and Laurel internally rolled her eyes at how tall the man was to her. She smiled and handed him the mug. “-The only mug I could find was the one I normally give my clients as goody bags.” She said sincerely handing him the hot mug.

Detective Morales smiled taking the pink mug from her. “It’s fine thank you. I can always give it away as a Christmas present-you know, after I wash it and everything.” He smiled nervously; he hoped Laurel didn’t take offense to the poorly told joke.

She gave him a smile, walked over to her throne like chair and sat down slowly looking at the Detective. “So, you wanted to speak with me about David?”

Detective Morales took a sip of the vanilla flavored black coffee and nodded his head sitting back down on the chair. Before he could speak he swallowed the sip of coffee and cleared his throat. “Yes. When was the last time you spoke to your husband?”

Ex-husband.” The Crisis Manager corrected. The Detective apologized for the mistake and she thought long and hard about the question. It wasn’t to help her recollect her thoughts because the last time she spoke to him was on December 19th and that was the same day she had him murdered in the County Prison just a few minutes after.

She made sure her body language told a story of how she was clueless about why the Detective was currently in her office, so she crossed her right leg over her left and leaned back against the chair. “The last time I spoke to him was December 29th of 2015 the day he filed for divorce. Also five days after my son died.”

Detective Morales apologized hearing about the passing of Laurel’s son and he placed the mug down by his feet and sat up straight looking at the Auburn haired woman.

Laurel could sense the pity looming in the air and she shook her head and quickly killed the silence before it could consume any of them. “May I ask what this is all about? Did he ask for me to come visit him again? If so, tell him what I said the first time he sent his dreadful sister here; I am not interested in seeing him again. We are over!”

This was one of the parts Detective Morales hated about his job more than anything.

Telling family members bad news was like taking his gun out and shooting them directly in the face. It felt that way to him because he was coming into their lives while they went about their daily routine only to deliver devastating news destroying their lives forever.

He placed his hands on his lap and gave her a solemn glance. “I’m sorry Ms. Quinn but…David’s dead.”

Laurel let out a gasp and clenched her chest in pure shock. “”Wh-What? Are y-you sure?” She asked her voice cracking with emotions-a trick she picked up while helping her mother run lines many times in the past.

The Detective nodded his head, “I’m afraid so. The prison guards believe he was attacked by another inmate…but I-“. He stopped speaking to recollect his thoughts, but Laurel sensed something more in his tone. She could hear the doubt he had about that assumption and it made her curious as to the thoughts currently running rapid in the Detective’s mind.

“You don’t believe he was attacked by an inmate?” She asked softly, pretending as if she was mourning and still processing the devastating news.

“No I don’t and that’s why I’m here. Maybe you can help me.”

In the back of Laurel’s mind she already had a Plan B just in case he stumbled upon anything that could trace the investigation back to her; but deep down she knew he wasn’t going to find anything incriminating since she covered her tracks oh so very well.

“Me? How can I help? I mean I would love to, but I don’t know if I can be of any use.”

“Do you know anyone by the name of Anna Purine?”

Laurel thought about the name and she gave him a nod remembering where she heard it before. “Yes. She-“. The Crisis Manager took a quick breath in and released it gathering her thoughts on the woman’s name. “She was David’s assistant. Why are you bringing her up now?”

Once again, Detective Morales was left to give another set of bad news that he really didn’t want to, but in order to help make sense of the murder he had to pull out everything from his bag of tricks.

“Well, apparently she had been writing to David in prison. They had spoken about moving away to Canada and starting a new life down there upon his release. What’s really interesting is she was the only visitor he had that day and two minutes later after she signed out; they found his body.”

In a performance worthy of an Oscar, Laurel rose up from the chair clenching her stomach unable to digest the information she had just received. “Wait, wait. You think his assistant murdered him? I mean yeah she’s an imbecile who could never take messages correctly and she believed a fax machine was a computer; but do you honestly believe she could add murder onto her resume?”

He rose up to his feet not wanting Laurel to look down at him while they spoke. His mother raised him to never be seated while a woman was standing and speaking to him. It was disrespectful and against their family name.

“I don’t know to be honest. Right now, this is just a mere thought as evidence is still being collected. Not to mention her whereabouts are currently unknown. Her roommate hasn’t spoken to her since the tenth of December.” He once again took another deep breath in and hated himself more than anything for asking; but the grieving ex-wife needed answers and more than anything so did he.

“Can I ask where you were on the nineteenth of December around the hours of 12pm through 2pm?”

Laurel nodded, “Sure of course. Well I had a consultation with a client that lasted from nine in the morning until noon. After that, I met up with an old friend named Harleen who was in town visiting the Diamond Convention for brunch. That reunion lasted for four hours as we caught up on old times. I can call the restaurant and have them send you over the surveillance tapes if you’d like?”

Detective Morales saw no positive connection between Laurel and the deceased other than the fact they used to be married. He normally wouldn’t jump to conclusions without evidence to back his claims but none of the letters mentioned Laurel or even the fact he was married.

Any and every letter David received while in person was from Anna as well many female suitors interested in his case. The tapes he saw during the day of the murder were conveniently erased which raised his suspicions more since Anna’s father was an IT for the Borger County Bank.

The look of hurt and distress was clear on the Crisis Manager’s face as she tried to make sense of everything that was just told to her; at least that’s what the Detective thought by her solemn facial expressions and concerned look.

“That won’t be necessary Ms. Quinn. I just wanted to clear up a few things before I proceed with this investigation.” He bent down and picked up the free mug he was given which still contained coffee and he took one more sip before swallowing it and extended his left hand toward her. “It was a pleasure meeting you Ms. Quinn and my condolences for the loss of your ex-husband.”

Laurel smiled sweetly and she took his hand in hers, shaking it slowly. “Thank you Detective. I mean sure he was a pain in the ass and as you can clearly see, a common thief, but I really did love him. He deserved better than her. Hell, he even deserved better than me.”

The sound of Laurel’s voice was filled with regret and sorrow, two traits that Morales knew all too well.

He smiled widely revealing his pearly white teeth to her, “Please Ms. Quinn do not blame yourself. Fate is a funny thing. Whether you two were married still or not, it wouldn’t have mattered if he was meant to die today.”

Sure, the Detective chose poorly phrased words to use and it probably wasn’t what Laurel wanted to hear; but he was right. Fate is funny and cruel and in Laurel’s world; Fate is a friend that doesn’t know when to behave.

Detective Morales took his hand back and smiled at the Auburn haired woman and he made his way out of her office walking through the waiting area. Laurel was already playing the grieving role in such a beautiful manner that she needed to top her performance thus far, so she decided to follow him out.

“One quick question Detective-“

Her voice caused him to stop in his tracks and he turned around to look at her with a look of concern on his face.

“How did you find me? “

“You were listed as David’s emergency contact.”

She let out a surprised gasp and shook her head as tears began to form in her eyes. He waited to see if Laurel had a follow up question and she didn’t. He couldn’t help but feel a sense of comfort knowing that maybe hearing that bit of information was the closure she needed in order to mourn for her ex-husband. He smiled again and left the office.

Laurel watched as Detective Morales pulled open the stair case door located by the elevator outside in the hall. She waited until he went down the stairs causing the door to close and when it did, she wiped her fake tears and shook her head.

“Great! Now there’s a Detective in the mix? I thought no one cared about the deaths at Borger County.” She muttered to herself in frustration.

Then she remembered how President Elect Victor Reber made it one of his campaign promises to revitalize his hometown of Borger County-which was a little town not even map makers cared to acknowledge. It wouldn’t surprise her if he decided to give the County a makeover just in time for his inauguration next month. Just why now? Why during this time?!

The sound of Laurel’s phone ringing broke apart her thoughts and she quickly walked into her office and picked up the phone placing it on her left ear, “Quinn.” She answered.

“Hello Ms. Quinn. This is Marcus Plyer from ‘Unity Film Studios’. I’m calling in regards to Paul Ianholder and Elena Dobrev.”

“Oh yes, the actors from that zombie show.”

“Mhmm. I know we have a meeting set up with you for next week but is it possible you can come down here? We are having an emergency and-“

Laurel squinted as she heard various screams and shouts from the other line of the phone. It sounded like a man and woman arguing with each other and even throwing glass. “Is everything okay Marcus?”

“Yes it’s just—okay no. Right now I’m here with Paul and Elena at the Sovereign Hotel for the Comic Convention and they are literally yelling and fighting. They’re tearing the VIP room of the lobby up and I’m scared the hotel might kick us out. We have a panel at six tonight and if these two don’t stop yapping now, the two leads of ‘Zombify’ will kill each other!”

“Okay, stay put I’ll be right over.”

Laurel hung up the phone and grabbed her black trench coat and purse. Sure she just wanted to spend the rest of the day at home resting, but this new client wasn’t going to rest soundly if the two leads of TV’s number one hit show murder each other. Besides this would definitely serve as a way to relax Laurel’s mind from the visit Detective Oliver Morales just paid her.

She closed the door to her personal office and she walked through the waiting area exiting Publicity! and closing the office door behind her. The door systematically locked as she made her way toward the staircase door already figuring out ways to solve the Elena and Paul problem.

Thirty Minutes Later:

Laurel stepped into the lobby of the Sovereign Hotel and looked around at the pandemonium. Filling the lobby were people of all ages, shapes and sizes dressed like superheroes, wizards, princesses, kings, queens and even a tornado covered with toy sharks. It didn’t take a genius to know these people were staying in San New to attend the Comic Book Convention which was taking place all throughout the week in the city. Laurel admired how accepting the cosplay community was when it came to the many people who dressed as their favorite characters disregarding their shapes, sizes or gender. It warmed her heart-no matter how many people say she doesn’t have one.

She made her way toward a royal family consisting of an eight year old dressed as a Princess, the parents were dressed like a king and queen and their son no older than two years old was dressed like a pirate. He had on a pirate hat, a white cotton shirt with ruffles and a fake mustache drawn with lip liner just above his lips.

Laurel smiled at the little pirate whom reminded her so much of her son Elijah Zachary Quinn, he would’ve been two years old this past Christmas Eve.

She bypassed the ‘Royal Family’ and approached the concierge desk to find that the hotel employee was dressed like the superhero Captain Canary. He had a stuffed black bird on his head and wore a blue and red suit made entirely out of cotton and not spandex.

“Hello and welcome to the Sovereign Hotel!” He greeted with a huge smile. “Are you checking in or out?”

Laurel smiled warmly at the superhero, “Neither. I received a call from Marcus Plyer and he is in need of my assistance.”

The concierge knew exactly why the Auburn haired woman was there and the last thing he needed was some of the guests overhearing how relieved he was the woman showed up.

He nodded his head, leaned over to her and lowered his voice as if he was seconds away from telling her a very interesting and confidential secret. “There is a black door next to the elevators that lead to the VIP room. The code is ‘21667’.”

Laurel was shocked a concierge would give away something as private as the security password for a door that is meant to be locked for safety reasons.

She gave him a wink and walked away from the concierge desk making her way through the crowds of colorful characters, creatures and ghouls. The black door wasn’t as far as she thought.

The Crisis Manager approached the door and secretly entered in the code on the number lock pad. She entered the last number and there was a clicking sound, which indicated the door was unlocked. She pushed open the door and came across Marcus Plyer with his face in his hands shaking his head seated in a corner as Elena and Paul shouted at each other not making any sense.

Laurel quickly stepped in and closed the door behind her. The large room had two hot tubs, three gumball machines, a sushi bar, a mini bar and a pool table smack in the middle.

Standing on one side of the bar was twenty seven year old Paul Ianholder. He had a face that was unforgettable. Not only was he handsome with aquamarine eyes, a smooth clean-shaven face and a jawline that could cut a block of mozzarella cheese-if that made sense-; but also he looked just like his famous father the former President of the United States George Ianholder. It was eerie but at the same time Laurel could imagine how hard it was for him to be unrecognized on the streets.

Standing a few feet away from him was his beautiful costar Elena Dobrev. Her should length black hair was in a sleek ponytail, she had on an interesting choice of clothing which consisted of a white robe with the monogram of the hotel on the right side of the breast pocket.

Laurel found it interesting that these two were arguing as if their lives depended on it, if an outsider walked in on them, they would assume these two were rehearsing a scene for their show ‘Zombify’.

A show where they play the roles of ‘Robert’ and ‘Kristen’ a couple who were about to get married when a zombie apocalypse broke out causing everyone in the world to become the undead. Laurel honestly had no idea how the show was still on air after all these years because it was boring, dense and the writing seemed like it was a fan fiction done by a high school freshman; rather than a professional and seasoned screenplay writer.

Laurel walked over to Marcus cursing the fact no one could hear her heels tapping on the ground, mainly because every inch of the floor was covered with black wall-to-wall carpeting.

She approached Marcus and tapped him on his shoulder causing him to flinch. He realized it was only Laurel and let out a sigh of relief. “Shit Laurel! Were you trying to give me a heart attack?” The thirty three year old Producer asked clenching his chest as his heartbeat was racing.

“If I wanted to do that I would strip naked.” She replied. Turning around she looked at the couple as they continued to yell each other.

“What the hell is going on between them?”

Marcus let out a sigh of frustration and shrugged his slender shoulders. “I have no damn clue. This started when Paul walked out of his hotel room and he banged into a group of screaming fan girls. Apparently Paul never brought up Elena’s name to let the girls know she was also in the hotel, they only wanted to see him to take selfies and get autographs.”

Laurel lowered her eyebrows. “A jealous costar? This show has been on for more than a decade, I’m sure there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.”

Marcus let out a huge yawn clearly he was tired and bored. “That or she’s on her period.”

“Yes, because us women are only emotional when Aunt Flo decides to come to town. Not because you men are pain in the asses.” Laurel stated insulted at his claims.

She noticed a bottle of champagne by his feet and she couldn’t refrain from smirking at it. “Is that yours?”

Marcus looked down at what Laurel was referring to and he gave her a nod leaning back on the chair. “Yep. The hotel gave it to us as a gratitude for rooming here.”

Laurel bent down and picked up the bottle noticing it was tightly closed.

She admired the beautiful pink bottle covered with faux jewels as if it was a Magical Elixir taken out of a fantasy game. She turned the bottle over to read its label. “Hmm Cherry-Lemon? I didn’t think they made these.”

Marcus nodded his head clearly not interested by the conversation she was having concerning the free champagne bottle.

Without warning, Laurel threw the glass bottle against the wall of the VIP room causing everyone to flinch as the bottle shattered into pieces. Both actors stopped yelling and they looked at Laurel in shock as Marcus rose to his feet quickly.

“What the hell is your problem? I’m not going to pay for that!” Marcus stated referring to the bottle and stain on the carpet.

Laurel rolled her eyes ignoring the producer’s words and she placed her purse on the nearest empty chair next to her.

“My name is Laurel Quinn and I am a Crisis Manager.” She addressed both actors who didn’t know what to do but remain silent out of fear and confusion. “I am here today because your Producer Marcus, told me all about how you two have been bickering offset.”

Laurel untied her black trench coat taking another deep breath to continue speaking. “Now, we have less than four hours to get to the bottom of whatever situation is currently happening between the two of you.”

She took off her coat and placed it on top of the seat which had her purse on it and she sat down on the empty chair next to it as both actors didn’t know what to do next or let alone how to react.

“Okay!” She clapped her hands together and smiled. “So which one of you wants to speak first?”

The actors exchanged glances with one another. They were unsure if Laurel was being serious or if this was one of her crazy outbursts or a trap.

Marcus cleared his throat impatiently waiting for someone to start speaking because he had other things to do, none of which involved him babysitting two of the highest paid stars on television.

Finally, Elena broke the silence and started speaking, “Mister Bright Eyes over here decided to share a room with Caroline Graham who plays his onscreen lover instead of rooming with me.”

Paul interrupted her sob story with an outburst, “The writers don’t know we’re dating!!!”

There was a gasp in the room and it came from Marcus who was baffled by the announcement. “Are you freaking kidding me?! You two are banging? That’s against the studio’s policy.”

Laurel rolled her eyes and turned to Marcus. “The fact you had no idea your stars were dating off screen, explains how you lack in the focus department.”

Elena turned to Paul “Whose fault is that?! I said since day one we should tell them but no!-”

“Here we go again!” Paul snickered shaking his head in frustration as Elena continued to blame him.

As Elena and Paul started to argue all over again raising their voices, Laurel took out her cellphone from her purse and started to record the argument on her MeTube account.

Marcus saw what she was doing and he stepped over to her. “What the hell are you doing?!”

Before Laurel could respond to the stupid question, the door to the back of the VIP room flung open and the actors stopped, arguing as they heard screams and cries from their fans. Laurel turned off the MeTube app on her phone and placed it back in her purse.

Marcus confronted her as both the actors stopped arguing and greeted each of their fans with a smile, erasing all the anger on their faces and in their voices, as they made sure they posed for selfies and signed autographs.

“Are you stupid?” Marcus asked the question causing Laurel to smirk. “You just outed a couple that could lose their jobs or be sued. They signed a contract which prohibited them from dating within the cast and you threw all that out the window!!”

Laurel slung her trench coat over her right arm and grabbed her purse. “Marcus, the fact you’re insinuating that I’m stupid would insult me if you qualified to do so. Your actors are in love, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be fighting so hard. Right now the public knows they’re dating so deal with it. The fans love them together and quite frankly if the studio wants them fired because of love, tell them be prepared for a war; and I always win.”

She gave him a wink and walked away causing him to run his fingers through his hair watching as Laurel pushed open the VIP door and left the room.

Marcus faced his actors and he couldn’t believe how happy the fans were to finally learn their two favorite characters and actors on the show, were finally going public with their relationship.

Maybe Laurel was right. Love is a confusing thing. One minute the person you hate is the same person you end up loving and that one person you love, is the same person you end up hating yet still loving them. Either way, Marcus was prepared for whatever disaster was coming his way.

In Hollywood, costars dating are like playing Russian roulette. It just takes one trigger to end everything in the blink of an eye.

1781 Goofer Road @ ‘KNBZ Radio Station’ (9:17pm):

Jordan Monroe walked out of the lobby of the KNBZ Radio Station.

It was San New’s number one station for all emerging artists. It was where Elizabeth Glitters first debuted as well as Damien Marx. It had been twenty-seven days since Jordan’s number one client and the top selling Pop Singer of all time was killed. The authorities ruled the young ‘Prince of Pop’s death a suicide due to a note found in his right pocket that mentioned how much stress he was under and he needed to find his escape; unfortunately that escape was only possible through death.

Many of Jordan’s colleagues paid their respects to the man who had been managing Damien for three years, but the silver haired male knew the truth behind the death and it wasn’t suicide. It was the work of his “lover” model Lola Ferrari.

Jordan had set them up as a couple just to gain publicity for both parties involved and it worked for the most part. They both received various endorsement deals for Valentine’s Day products as well as condom commercials and the best part of the scheme was the name ‘DALA, which was the ship name the fans gave them.

But that was in the past and just like the world, Jordan had to move on with his life. He couldn’t blame himself any longer nor could he sit at home and mourn.

He had a meeting at the Radio Station about a new artist he found named Vicki Bubbles. She was an eighteen-year-old Indie Punk Rocker who had marketing potential. While the meeting lasted for more than three hours, he was more than confident that the Disk Jockeys were going to give his artist some airtime.

Jordan spotted his black SUV parked across the street by the curb of a foreclosed comic book store. He sighed in relief at the sight of the car still parked where he left it because throughout the meeting he was sure someone was going to steal it.

Not because it was a 2018 model, black with chrome rims, 100% leather interior with heated seats, television screens behind each seat and even a mini refrigerator; but because the neighborhood was shady and anyone he had encountered so far, were crack heads and drug dealers.

He ran across the street to his car and opened the driver’s door quickly popping in. Closing the door after he sat down, he took out his cellphone and read a text from his secretary Linda, who was eagerly waiting for him at his house in Gladen Falls; a city just outside of San New where all the rich and famous live happily in solitude and seclusion. Very much like the Hamptons, except it’s never a dull moment.

He smirked to himself as Linda sent a picture of her wearing a very revealing black latex two piece bikini.

“Damn girl! You are sooo going to get it tonight.” He placed the phone on the cellphone dock, placed the key into the ignition and turned it to start his car.

“I should stop off at the market and buy some rubbers. Something tells me it’s going to be a very long New Year’s Eve and-“

BOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!

Without warning the black SUV exploded causing pieces of the car to rain down unto some parts of Goofer Road. Smoke, chaos, fear and tragedy filled the streets as people from local establishments came out to see what the ruckus was about.

None of them knew what happened or what caused the car to explode, but they all prayed that no one was inside.

Little did they know, all of their prayers were a waste of time because inside of the car was someone who died a tragic death, that he never saw coming.

Rip

New Year’s Eve @ 8:19am:

Yes Danni that is truly crazy.” Merna Vlad smiled at her co-anchor of her show ‘Morning With Merna’, as if she truly cared for anything she had to say.

[_ Merna-a woman with short black hair and big black framed glasses- glanced into the camera now addressing her audience. _]

In other news, Rapper Lil Holler met with the Mayor of Morrinstown today where he donated three million dollars to each Public School within the small town populated by ten hundred people. It was a surprising yet generous gift on his behalf. Which almost makes up for the scandal he had in November which saw him burning the American Flag, but hey! Who am I to judge right?”

She smiled into the camera so wide that the back molars in her mouth were visible to the viewers at home.

Anyway moving on to actually talented people, do you remember troubled Hollywood actress Ella Filerante? The blonde actress who was crowned ‘America’s Sweetheart’? The same actress that had a video of her going viral four months ago yelling at an elderly couple and wishing that they died slowly? Well, once again Ella is back in the news but this time, she isn’t yelling at anyone. In a shocking twist, Ella was spotted at the Gideon’s Women’s Shelter donating her designer dresses as well as designer shoes. She also made a shocking donation of three hundred thousand dollars, which would give the shelter enough money for much needed renovations. How amazing is that?” Merna asked finally addressing her co-anchor who smiled in amazement.

That was extremely generous of her. It seems that many of the celebrities are being charitable this week. I sure hope it’s a disease that is contagious.”

Laurel muted the television screen in her office and swiveled around in the chair to get back to her work, unfortunately that wasn’t going to happen once she heard DING, indicating that she had a client. She didn’t remember having any appointments until after noon.

She got up from her chair and walked out of her office freezing in place as she saw a man that stood at 5’8, he had stringy greasy hair, wore a black tuxedo that was a few sizes bigger than him and hanging out the corner of his mouth was a small wooden toothpick. The man was in awe at the beautifully decorated waiting area, she recognized him to be Slinky-her father’s right hand man.

“Good God!” She sighed crossing her arms across her chest. “What are you doing here?”

He flashed her a smirk, took the chewed toothpick out of his mouth and bowed before her.

“Good day Princess. I am honored to be in your presence.” His mocking tone frustrated Laurel in many ways than she could admit.

“That makes one of us.” She stated. “Now why are you here? Is my father coming back? I assure you I can only tolerate him once a year.”

Slinky shook his head straightening his back and he placed the toothpick back in his mouth. “Nope. Your father is busy back at home as we speak, but he sent me.”

“Ah. If the King can’t torture me why not send the Court’s Jester?” Laurel replied causing Slinky to chuckle. He ran his hands through his greasy hair remembering how outspoken Laurel always was. At this point in life he learned to love and accept her humor and not to take offense to it.

“Have you checked any of your texts on the burner phone your father gave you the last time he was here?”

The question-Laurel admitted- was a stupid one. Of course she didn’t check on it. She actually had a job and none of that involved her checking messages on a flip phone, especially when it came to her father. “No I didn’t. The phone is at home because as I told him I have no interests in anything he has to say.”

He nodded his head listening to her words and he took out a piece of paper from the inside of his large suit. He unfolded it and sighed. “There are many bad guys in this world Princess. Some aren’t bad-like your father. He does what he does solely because he loves you, but then you have other bad guys that-“

Laurel raised her right hand at him causing him to stop speaking. “Spare me the Fortune Cookie lingo; I haven’t drank enough coffee to figure out what you’re trying to say. So please, get to the point.”

Slinky gave her the sheet of paper without a moment of hesitation and Laurel snatched it from his hand and read it to herself.

On the sheet was a colored picture of Laurel that was clearly taken out of a photo shoot she did with Gladore Magazine three years ago, but over her picture were the words

Wanted Dead: Laurel Quinn!

Reward: $36.8 Million.

Must Bring Proof To Collect Reward!”

She arched her right eyebrow and glared at the greasy skinny man who nodded his head in a vain manner as if he was singing ‘I told you so’ in his head.

“Someone put a hit out on me?” She asked not surprised since this wasn’t the first time someone threatened her life.

“Seems like it Princess.” He said once again taking the toothpick out of his mouth.

Laurel watched as he glided over towards the black cushioned seats and sat down spreading his legs open. “Your father discovered this when an idiot from the Raider Mafia confided in him about buying a few guns from your dad so he could use it to kill you. The poor sap had no idea who he was talking to when he showed the flier. Once the sap spilled the beans-well your dad spilled his guts.”

Laurel could picture the grisly death the man faced at the hands of New York City’s deadliest King Pin. One thing Vincent Capella would die protecting was Laurel.

She didn’t want to think too long and hard about how much her father loved her because then that would humanize him and that was the last thing she wanted to do. “Has he found out who ordered this hit?”

Slinky shook his head. “Unfortunately not yet. But he sent in your Knight in Shining Armor-“

“Unless that Knight is Matt Bomerson then it’s useless.”

Slinky cleared his throat noticing Laurel was wandering in her thoughts-something she always had done even when she was younger. Vincent always joked that she was speaking to her inner Demons- a joke that her mother never really enjoyed.

“Your father gave me strict orders to come back at midnight and take you over to the Safe House.”

“Absolutely not!” She interjected dropping the flier on his lap. “I have an agency and clients who need me! I also have-“

“What do you have exactly Princess?” Slinky asked sitting up on the chair closing his legs to ensure the flier would not fall on the floor. “Were you going to say friends? That British fellah isn’t your friend he’s your assistant. Then that Dick from downstairs isn’t a friend either he’s just someone you vent to when you get bored. Face the facts Quinny, you don’t have real friends and based on who you are and the life you live, you will never have any friends that will genuinely care for you. That’s just the way it is in this lifestyle.”

“What lifestyle? What my father-“ She paused and quickly corrected herself. “That man does, doesn’t concern me nor does it have anything to do with me. This hit is just by some failed client that I rejected. Plain and simple.”

Slinky grabbed the flier from his lap and jumped to his feet smiling. “Interesting hypothesis ya have there Quinny. But if you truly know me, you’d know this isn’t up for deliberation. I advise you to pack a bag of clothing-not heels we aren’t going to the Five Stars at Guadalupe for crying out loud. Make sure you get your affairs in order as well.”

He made his way out of the office never once turning around because he knew deep down how much Laurel wanted to throw something at him or punch him. Whichever came first. He didn’t want to take that chance, so he walked out casually and she watched as he made his way toward the elevators.

Laurel stormed into her personal office trying to sort through the thoughts currently ambushing her mind. From the TSK and now to whomever this coward was, putting a price on her life it was easily laughable. She had no idea who would do this but she did have a few ideas on the person’s character. Clearly they had to be rich in order to pay such a high wage to have her killed and she could also tell they were a coward since they wanted to hire someone rather than off her themselves.

Laurel cleared her mind as her office phone began to ring and she answered it, “Quinn.”

“H-Hello Laurel. It’s Meryl.”

“Did you kill anyone else?” She asked not really thinking about the question until it came out of her mouth and she realized it was rude and apologized. “Sorry I just had a very interesting past few days.”

“That’s understandable. I hate to make it even worst.”

“What do you mean?”

Meryl paused for a few seconds and then she started to speak again, her tone was filled with doubt and sprinkled with a little fear. “I received a letter in the mail and…someone knows what I did. They said they were going to tell the police if I don’t pay them a certain amount of money for their silence.”

Son of a bitch! These bastards move faster than Taylor Switter moves through men.’ Laurel thought to herself. “Did the person sign TSK511?”

“Yes they did. How did you know? Who are they?”

“A pain in my ass is who they are.” Laurel mumbled to herself. “It’s a long story. Listen to me, there is nothing to worry about. As of right now this person has been sending the same threats around to various people. I assure you no one but Tony and I know about that night.”

“Are you sure?”

“Trust me, the Police haven’t even found his body. Just go about your day. I’m working on this as we speak.”

“Are you sure? I’m not scared of many things Laurel, but you and I both know this particular secret coming out could ruin everything.”

“As I said, you have nothing to worry about.”

Sure, the words which came out of Laurel’s mouth might have made Meryl feel better, but not even the Crisis Manager could believe what she just said.

With a psychotic group like TSK, nothing is certain. Nothing is guaranteed and everyone is in danger.

3122 Exer Avenue In Apartment 6C:

Tony Vincetti stared out of the bedroom window as the Grey clouds started to darken. He didn’t remember any of the meteorologists mentioning rain in the New Year’s Eve broadcast, but he expected nothing less from Mother Nature who clearly was punishing everyone.

Just last month there was a heatwave. A heatwave in November!? It was insane just thinking about it.

He rolled over a little trying not to wake up Jace who was sleeping next to him. The thirty year old Brit only had on a pair of black and red boxer briefs, his muscular chest was covered with some hair and two scars were visible over his right breast where he was shot twice years ago on a job.

Every day he would look at the scars and always think about how he was lucky enough to be alive. Life is something many people take for granted by being stressed, worried and even with people fearing what others might think about them, which causes many people to live through the eyes of others rather than live for themselves.

Throughout Tony’s life he had lost himself in ways he could never think about, he ended up finding himself when he started working for a man whom went by the name ‘Mr.B’. Not much was known about this mysterious boss except he paid hefty amount of money for the assassination of anyone, male, female, politician, celebrity, artist, news anchor, doctor, mother, father, brother, sister etc.

Tony would receive files on his intended targets and he would kill them with one swift attack leaving behind no DNA, no proof he was there and making each kill seem like a suicide.

Tony’s mysterious past was something that he longed to forget because he wasn’t a hero nor a martyr, he was a cold blooded killer that had one hell of a body count. He never thought in a million years that his intended target, Laurel Quinn, would see something in him that he didn’t and she would hire him to work for her giving him a second chance in life.

But Jace did something else to him, he brought him back to life; giving him a second chance at finding love.

The sound of thunder roared outside causing Tony to sigh and roll his eyes as it scared him but he wasn’t going to admit that anytime soon. Jace opened his eyes slowly and Tony smiled. “Good morning, Love.”

“Good morning and Happy New Year’s Eve.” Jace replied softly as he stretched out his limbs smiling.

Tony leaned down and kissed the Private Investigator’s forehead.

Being a Private Investigator wasn’t a luxurious lifestyle that Jace could have imagined himself living, but as a New Yorker he always had a hankering for helping others.

Sure, it seemed strange but Jace didn’t care, he was fearless, smart and quick on his feet whenever he came across a problem; plus he blamed his sleuthing skills on his father who exposed him to the book series ‘The Hardy Boys’.

Jace could sense something was weighing heavy on Tony’s mind as he clenched his jaws together-a notion that the P.I had studied his boyfriend doing various times before; which meant Tony was thinking about something. “What’s wrong?” He asked sitting up on the bed.

Tony smirked shaking his head. ‘Out of all the guys to date in this city I choose to fall for a bloody P.I’. He thought to himself as he sat up on the bed and looked at Jace.

“I-I know we’ve been dating for two months but I am-“

“Two months?” Jace asked snickering and shaking his head. “Good Grief, is Laurel working you that hard? We’ve been dating for six months.”

Tony tried to hide the fact that was shocked at the new information he just obtained but he couldn’t. His eyes were widened in shock and his cheeks were blushed red as he wanted to die from embarrassment.

Jace saw his nervous state and he smiled kissing him softly on the lips. He pulled away slowly resting his forehead against Tony’s. “You’re lucky today is the last day of 2017. So I’ll let that burn with the rest of the year.”

“Mmm, thank you. I promise to make it up to you.” Tony said sighing in relief that Jace was understanding and didn’t overreact too much.

Jace leaned back sitting up on the bed, “I will hold you to that promise. Besides, I understand. We’ve both been busy in our professional lives that it’s easy for us to forget the time and the day of the week.”

“Speaking of that-“. Tony looked at the Private Investigator with a solemn expression on his face. “You never told me why Darlene Hart was a person of interest on one of your cases. What was that about? Do you think it’s linked to her death?”

“I don’t believe it is. I mean, at first I did because Darlene did an exposé last year on a Pharmaceutical company named Manticore Corporation. They have been experimenting with dangerous weapons and diseases. The FBI, CIA and Homeland Security were never able to find them after they left Plum Island and moved onshore. Luckily for them I did, as well as Darlene. Apparently she was trying to impress her boss by moving away from entertainment and moving on to something more hard hitting and innovative. She showed me a video of her interviewing a former scientist who confirmed that Manticore Corporation had been building Biological Weaponry and has been using homeless people as guinea pigs. When their experiments failed they moved onto runaway teens. Eventually the experiments failed again, so they discarded the bodies in various beaches as well as forests in an eighty mile radius from Urban neighborhoods.”

“Making it appear as if there was a serial killer on the loose.” Tony added causing Jace to nod his head.

“Exactly! That tape proved everything about Manticore but I know they got to her, because the next day she destroyed every single one of those copies.”

Tony didn’t expect all the information he was given. He honestly believed Jace’s job involved him going after cheating spouses, retrieving antique diamond crested golden eggs etc; but the last thing he ever expected was the twenty six year old going against a large corporation.

Tony grabbed Jace’s right hand and stared into his brown eyes. “Are you bloody insane? You can get yourself killed. Please tell me you aren’t looking for these people anymore.”

Jace adored how caring and concerned Tony was about his wellbeing but this was his job.

Sure it wasn’t like assisting a Crisis Manager or making a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning. He was against forces that were dangerous, scary, powerful and sinister; this alone proved just how different both Jace and Tony’s worlds were.

Jace caressed Tony’s hand and smiled. “You don’t have anything to worry about. I am not looking for Manticore and I do not have plans to find them. You have my word.”

“Good because I-“

DING DONG!

Tony let out a sigh of frustration as the doorbell echoed throughout the two-bedroom apartment that Jace called home. He leaned his forehead against Jace’s and caressed his face softly. “Let’s ignore the door, yeah?”

“No can do.” Jace replied back softly with a smirk. “It’s Julian.”

Tony pulled away from the P.I and lowered his eyebrows. “Who the bloody hell is that?”

“The delivery man from ‘Pancake Familia’. I exposed a corruption with the Immigration office who tried to falsify documents trying to deport him and his family back to Mexico. Ever since then he has brought me free pancakes every day at this time.”

“And you eat all of that?”

Jace shrugged getting off the bed. He already had on a long black t-shirt so he didn’t need to put anything else on. “Sometimes I just give it to Mrs. Baker who lives upstairs. Her grandchildren rarely come to visit her. It’s sad really.” He gave Tony a wink and walked out of the bedroom, down the long hallway as the doorbell rang again.

Tony watched as Jace left his sight and he softly bit his bottom lip smirking. He hated to admit it but he was falling for Jace in many ways, ways that he was scared to confess.

BANG! BANG!

The sound of gunfire rang out through the apartment causing Tony to jump out of the bed and unto his feet. He ran over to a black duffle bag that laid under Jace’s bed and he took out a black handgun.

He quickly took the safety off and walked out of the bedroom slowly making his way down the long hallway passing by pictures of Jace with his family. His heartbeat pounded inside of his chest as he crept slowly toward the corner of the hallway, around the bend was the door to the apartment. He didn’t have a mirror to see if anyone was standing there but he could hear heavy breathing.

Without a second to waste Tony jumped around the corner lifting the gun up hoping to find someone standing there, but all he saw was Jace lying on the ground in a pool of blood. “No, no no” He dropped the gun and quickly ran over to Jace dropping to his knees not caring that he was pant less in a pool of blood.”

“ Stay- Stay with me, Love. Don’t you bloody leave me.” Tony looked at the Private Investigator’s chest and saw two gunshot wounds. One was above his right breast and the other wound was in the middle of his stomach. “Stay with me Jace.” His voice cracked as he placed pressure on the wounds using both his hands.

Jace watched as Tony’s eyes watered and he applied more pressure on the wounds, his hands now being covered with blood. “Anthony, I l-l-l-ove you.” Jace said breathing heavily and Tony nodded as a few tears rolled down his cheeks.

“I love you too, but you aren’t going anywhere.” He looked over his shoulders at the apartment door across from Jace’s “SOMEONE HELP ME! HELP SOMEONE HAS BEEN SHOT!”

He looked back down at Jace feeling the life of the man he was beginning to love, slowly slip away from his fingers. “Don’t go Jace please.” He cried, “You make me human. You make me sane please don’t go. Please, love stay with me.”

Auld Lang Syne

Laurel felt the world around her slow down as she ran into the Emergency Room lobby of the San New General Hospital.

The only sound she could hear was the sound of her own heartbeat racing. With each beat, it felt like little daggers stabbing her chest violently.

She felt sick, sad and worse of all, she felt hopeless. For the first time in three years Laurel Quinn, ‘Crisis Manager To The Stars’-felt vulnerable, weak and hopeless; something she never thought she’d feel again.

She approached the ‘Nurse’s Station’ getting the attention of a nurse in pink and white scrubs. “Hello. My name is Laurel and I got a call that my-my brother was shot and he was rushed here.”

The nurse nodded her head seeing how distraught Laurel was and she rushed over to the keyboard of her computer and typed in a few letters looking at the screen. She read the screen and looked at her, “We received six patients with gunshot wounds in the last three hours. What is your brother’s name?”

“Jace. J-a-c-e. He was emancipated when he was sixteen and left the house years ago. He threatened he was going to change his last name but I’m afraid I don’t know what it is.”

The nurse absorbed the information she was given and she typed in a few more letters in the keyboard. “I’m afraid we have no patient by that name, ma’am. Maybe you’re in the wrong hospital.”

“Please. Just check again. He is twenty-six years old, he has brown curly hair and dark brown eyes. He is very sassy and smart. He thinks he’s funny at times but he really isn’t and-“

At this point Laurel felt her emotions get the best of her. Her voice was cracking as she started to tear up remembering how much she appreciated the crazy Private Investigator and even after helping her find David and digging into some of her life events, he never once passed judgment on her. He accepted her and she accepted him. She saw him as a friend, a friend that she didn’t want to lose.

The nurse felt sympathy for the woman and she shook her head slowly. “I can’t give out more information than that. I’m sorry but your brother isn’t here.”

The Crisis Manager thanked the woman and nervously turned away from the nurse’s station and tried to make sense of everything Tony told her on the phone. All he said was Jace was shot and they were currently heading to the San New General Hospital, which was exactly where Laurel was standing.

She looked over toward the elevators and saw Tony walking out. He had on a pair of blue hospital scrubs as if he was a nurse leaving his shift at the ER. He was walking slower than usual. He looked as if a vampire sucked out all of his energy.

“Tony.” Laurel walked over to him passing by a few patients seeking and needing medical attention. He heard her voice and stopped walking slowly turning around to face her.

She noticed his eyes were bloodshot red and filled with tears. Looking down at his hands she saw they were covered with dried blood. “H-How is he?”

“The doctors were able to retrieve the bullets out of him. They were two. One in his chest and another in his…um…st-stomach.” His speech was slow, his energy low and his voice cracked with every word that came out of his mouth.

“Oh my God. Is he alright?”

Tony nodded his head at her words. “……..He’s in a coma. The-The doctors aren’t sure when he will wake up or if he…or if…or if he will!”

Laurel felt her heart sink to her stomach and Tony could no longer hold onto his emotions. He dropped to his knees but not before Laurel grabbed his shoulders and dropped down slowly with him.

The entire Emergency Room froze in shock and sadness as Tony’s cries of pain and grief echoed through every room in the ER. Laurel rubbed his back slowly. “Let it out. Let it out.”

A few tears rolled down her cheeks and she closed her eyes holding in her grief of possibly losing the only person outside of Publicity!, she ever considered a genuine friend.

Nine Hours Later (5:18pm):

Laurel walked out of her bedroom slowly closing the door behind her. She was finally able to get Tony to sleep.

It wasn’t easy leaving someone you love in the hospital unsure if they are going to survive the night- she knew firsthand about that- but Tony wasn’t a man known to wear his heart on his sleeves so seeing him like this was worrisome for her.

Her and Jace were close as friends could possibly get without revealing too much about their past, she never knew his real name and he never knew where she lived. It wasn’t because they didn’t trust each other because they did, it was because they both knew some secrets had to be kept and they respected each other for that reason.

There was a knock on the door which caught Laurel off guard because she didn’t remember inviting anyone over. Fear was something Laurel never believed in; she walked over toward the door and opened it.

Standing in the doorway was Slinky who shook his head. “You didn’t even waste three seconds to look through the peek hole to see who I was. Are ya trying to get yourself killed?”

Laurel rolled her eyes at him clearly not in the mood to deal with any of his shenanigans-especially not today. “How’s the Brit?” Slinky asked stepping inside of the apartment placing another toothpick inside of his mouth.

The Crisis Manager rolled her eyes closing the door and she turned to face him. “His name is Tony and he’s not doing so well, his boyfriend is in a coma, so please try to be respectful- I know it’s hard to do since they didn’t teach you that in the swamp you crawled out of.”

This comment made Slinky smirk nodding his head. Again, he never once took her insults to heart but he did admire the originality behind it.

Laurel placed her hands on her hips and glares at him. “Now, did you get the surveillance tape?”

Slinky nodded his head and he pulled out a cellphone from the inside of his large tuxedo and swiped the screen unlocking it. “Just press play. The video is all queued up.”

Laurel took the phone from his hand and tapped the screen causing the video to play.

In the video, a person wearing a hood walked over to apartment 6C and rang the doorbell. The mysterious person took out a small handgun from a messenger bag that was slung over their right shoulder and they waited patiently for the person to answer the door. After thirty seconds the door opened and the figure fired their gun twice before turning around to run away.

Laurel paused the video and tried to calm down her nerves. It was a tough pill to swallow watching the last seconds of Jace before he was innocently gunned down.

She looked at the paused frame and noticed the gunman’s face was visible. She zoomed in and the person’s face became clearer, the image showed a young woman with blonde hair, porcelain like skin and pink lipstick on her lips.

“Lola?”

The name caused Slinky to lower his eyebrows at her and he glanced at the screen. “You know her?”

“Unfortunately. She was a client of mine. Very unstable.” Laurel had no idea why Lola would shoot Jace considering they never met before-at least not to the Crisis Manager’s recollection.

Slinky glanced back at Laurel as he took his phone from her hands, “You need to get back to packing. I understand you want to play mother to Tony, but it won’t be of much use to him if you’re dead.” The greasy man opened the apartment door and turned around to face her as he stepped backward exiting the apartment. “I’ll be back in a few hours. Don’t do anything stupid and do not go anywhere.”

Laurel pushed the door closed and she let out a sigh of frustration as she combed her right hand through her Auburn colored hair.

Too much was happening, too many questions were being raised and not enough answers. She turned around and flinched as she saw Tony standing in the middle of her living room, with a look of anger and confusion on his face.

“Lola shot Jace?” Laurel was shocked at the question because she left Tony sound asleep after she slipped him two Melatonin pills in his water. She didn’t think for one second he would be up and alert as he was now.

As much as the Crisis Manager wanted to lie and make it seem like he was just hearing things and none of it was true, it was useless.

She slowly walked over to him speaking in a calm tone. “Tony you need to rest. You need some sleep and you can’t get that if-“

DID LOLA SHOOT JACE?!” His shouts of anger caused Laurel to flinch. She nodded her head slowly and he clenched his jaws together. He grabbed his coat off Laurel’s couch and stormed toward the door.

“No, no! You are not going to find her! Tony, you have gone this far without killing anyone. You and I both know how dangerous you are. If you kill now you will not be able to stop.”

The words rang in his head and he stopped walking. There was nothing else worth caring for, nothing else worth admiring. “I have gone this far being me because of Jace. He wasn’t just-…he was someone that I loved because he listened. He made me feel human; he made me forget all about my past.”

“Yes and I get that but he is not dead! He is in a coma that I know he will awaken from! You seeking revenge isn’t an ideal move right now and you know that. Jace needs to wake up and see your face. He cannot do that if you’re in jail for murder!”

There was a silence in the room as she tried to find out what to say next, however Tony already had his mind set and he dashed toward the door opening it.

“If you leave this apartment you will no longer be employed at Publicity!. I will fire you with no hesitation.”

Tony stood in between the threshold contemplating his next his move. He had enjoyed working with Laurel, meeting the diverse clienteles, putting his skills to great use and living a life, he actually enjoyed living.

Just like a glass vase dropping off the Empire State Building, his hopes were shattered the second Jace slipped into an unconscious state.

He looked over his shoulder at Laurel, “Then consider the door closing as my resignation letter.”

Without a second thought, Tony left the apartment slamming shut the door behind him.

“Dammit!” Laurel kicked the coffee table in frustration causing it to turn over. The sound of her cellphone ringing caused her to curse at the entire day and how everything was falling apart. She rushed over to her black designer purse and took out her phone quickly answering it. “Quinn!”

“Hey Ms. Quinn it’s Justin Austin. I just wanted to see if you were close by. I’m at your office to pick up the mail.”

Shit!’ Laurel thought to herself remembering how she volunteered to pick up all his fan mail while he was away with family. “That’s right. Is it possible you could pick it up tomorrow? Today isn’t really ideal.”

“I wish I could Ms. Quinn. Unfortunately, I’m leaving to New York City for six months. I was cast as Captain Canary.”

Laurel let out a surprised gasp-she didn’t mean it- but as his Crisis Manager she wanted to react as if she cared. “That is amazing congratulations. I- I’m home right now but I’ll swing by in five minutes. Just let me fix myself up.”

“No problem. I’ll see you when you get here.”

Laurel hung up the cellphone, looked at the apartment door hoping that Tony changed his mind, and would reenter, but he wasn’t on the other side, he wasn’t coming back and his mind was already made up.

She took in a deep breath and exhaled. She turned on the heels of her feet and walked into her bedroom to get dressed and head back to the office.

Forty Six Minutes Later:

Laurel didn’t bother steaming one of her many designer dresses for a short meeting nor did she have the energy to match everything together. Instead she wore a pair of black slacks, a white blouse under the black trench coat and of course a pair of black stiletto shoes. She stepped off the elevator on the third floor and the clanking of her heels caused Justin Austin to look away from his phone and glance at the woman approaching him.

“I am so sorry I’m late. I forgot today was New Year’s Eve and the traffic is crazy with everyone heading to the Tania to watch the ball drop.”

Justin kindly dismissed her words, “Oh nonsense. Don’t worry about it. It’s my fault I should’ve called earlier to remind you. I can’t expect a business woman like yourself to wait for little old me.” He was sweet and kind but Laurel wasn’t in the right head space to even think of more compliments to describe him. She took out a set of keys from her purse and unlocked the office door.

Justin Austin was twenty three years old and famously known throughout the city for his kindness, sweet smile, big heart and of course his impeccable acting talents which was the reason he was cast as the lead on the teen drama ‘2Heart1Love’, a show that never seemed interesting to Laurel but the teenagers all around the city seemed to enjoy it. His face was on lunchboxes, pillowcases, shirts, pants, boxers, panties, posters, billboards, notebooks, folders etc. He was a huge star that never once let the fame get to his head. Unfortunately, nude pictures and videos of him were leaked to the public in a cyber-attack that only took seconds to destroy his career.

The studio bosses at the show’s network didn’t show any support to Justin, instead they swiftly fired him and are looking for another actor to recast him with on the show- a move that will ultimately cause the demise of ‘2Hearts1Love’.

“So Captain Canary? That is a huge deal.” Laurel said as she finally unlocked the door and opened it. Once the door opened the lights throughout the office automatically turned on-something that Tony installed. It did come in handy for security reasons and it also made opening Publicity!, early in the morning a whole lot easier. She walked over to Tony’s desk and pointed to a purple plastic crate that contained more than six hundred envelopes of various sizes.

“That was all from these past three weeks.” She was going to pick the box up but the tall young man grabbed it for her and picked it up with ease. “Wow, someone has been drinking his milk.” She said smirking.

“Oh no Ms. Quinn. My agent has me on a strict gym regime for this role. I can’t blame him though, this has always been a dream of mine. Thanks again for everything. If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be here…I would’ve…well you know.”

Laurel did know. When the pictures leaked online Justin hit a deep dark depression and his agent worried that he was going to inflict self-harm on himself, which was why he quickly hired Laurel Quinn to fix the situation and she did just that.

“You are a very talented and generous young man and in this Industry that is very hard to find. Now you make sure you write to each and every one of those fans that wrote you a letter and good luck on your new role, Captain Canary.”

Justin bowed at her tightly holding the crate full of letters, parcels and drawings and she smiled at him. He turned around leaving the office; he decided the stairs was a better option since it could help more with his training for the block buster role.

Laurel watched as the staircase door closed and she quickly picked up Tony’s office phone and dialed a few numbers on the number pad. She placed the earpiece on her right ear and listened as the other line rang a few times then went straight to voicemail.

“’Ello, you just reached Tony’s phone. I’m not bloody here so leave a message or not I don’t care.” A few seconds later there was a ‘Beep!’

“Tony it’s Laurel…I don’t know where you’re at right now but you need to think about what you’re going to do. I know you’re hurting now I do, but so am I. Jace wasn’t just a P.I who worked downstairs he was my friend. He was-“

“Hang up the bloody phone Quinn.” A voice said causing Laurel to turn around. Standing in the doorway of Publicity! was Tony.

“ Tony…please tell me you didn’t- you didn’t…find her.”

He nodded his head slowly, “Oh I found her. She rented a room at the Culprite Motel Downtown. I was able to track her using a facial recognition program by analyzing every security camera in the streets.”

“Tony, where is she?”

Tony walked out of the office without saying a word. Laurel took his notion as probably a sense of guilt but she was surprised to see him walk back inside holding onto Lola Ferrari’s right arm.

She was alive, with no visible bruises or wounds; but she did not look too happy to be there.

Laurel let out a sigh of relief but she noticed Tony had a stern look on his face so she refocused her energy on why Tony brought her to the office.

“As you can bloody see with your own eyes, she is breathing…for now.”

Lola rolled her eyes and Laurel straightened her posture. “I can see that but why did you bring her here?”

Tony rolled his eyes looking away from Lola’s head and he addressed Laurel, “She confessed to killing Damien for cheating on her. She killed Darlene Hart for apparently having some bloody fictitious relationship. She blew up Jordan Monroe because he lied to her and-“

“Wait, wait.” Laurel interrupted trying to gather her thoughts together at the information she was just given and she addressed Lola. “You’re TSK511?”

Lola rolled her eyes at the insult Laurel just gave her. “Ugh no! I only used that stupid name because it was the sad pathetic group Damien was a part of. They are right wing Christians who wanted to expose the secret lives of celebrities. They’re harmless, acne covered sixteen year olds who live in their parents’ basement. I was hoping to set them up for murder because they set up Damien with that damn whore at the hotel, but the freaking police can never do their job. Naturally.”

“So why the hell did you shoot Jace?!” Laurel blurted out.

“I assure you, that guy was not on my radar. I was paid to shoot him…Well actually paid to kill him. Which with the lack of money in my account means that guy I shot didn’t die.” Lola shook her head in frustration as she had one job to do and she managed to mess that up.

Tony shockingly kept calm through Lola’s explanation and Laurel lowered her eyebrows at the model.

“Who hired you to kill him?”

Lola wanted to go home. She just wanted to soak her feet and relax but no, she was stuck in an awful black and pink painted office answering questions as if this was an interview. She shook her head flipping her blonde hair back. “Ugh! The person who hired me was some dummy named-“

BANG!

Laurel and Tony flinched as Lola’s blood splattered unto both of them and they watched as Lola fell to the ground dead with a bullet hole in her forehead.

They looked at the doorway to find Slinky standing there with a gun in his right hand and he walked in slowly entering the office; causing the sensor to release a loud DING!.

“Slinky? What the hell did you do that for?!” She asked angrily.

A sinister smirk spread across his face as he aimed the gun at the Crisis Manager. She let out a small gasp and stepped back a little as Tony stood firmly next to her keeping his attention on the familiar gunman. “Oh my God, you hired her to kill Jace?”

Slinky winked at her and Tony was seconds away from lunging at him when she grabbed his wrist.

“That’s right Princess. Now before you ask, it had nothing to do with him being Gay. He’s a Dick and it wouldn’t have been long until he stumbled upon my plan.”

“Plan?” Tony asked. “What plan?”

Slinky aimed the gun at Tony and he tightened his grip and answered the question. “My apologies Princess, but your father has been a nuisance. He has been treating me as if I’m a freaking intern. You know more than anyone else does Princess that I’ve been working for him for twenty-six years. Twenty six years!” He aimed the gun back at Laurel causing her to glare at it. It wasn’t the first time she’s had a gun to her face and she highly doubted it would be the last time.

“So my plan is to kill you, bring your dead body over to whoever sent the hit and collect my millions. Easy in and easy out.”

Tony stepped in front of the gun and glares at Slinky “But there’s a problem with that. You have to get through me if you want her.”

Slinky cocked his head to the right smirking, “Is that a challenge Brit?”

“You honestly think you’ll live long enough after you kill us?” Laurel asked. “My father will find you and kill you before you even step a foot on the plane.”

“Would he?” Slinky asked smirking. “Last I heard you’re nothing but a pain in his ass.”

“Hey!” Laurel gasped. “I worked very hard to be a pain in his ass and he knows more than anything that he loves when I am a pain.”

Tony had hoped in some way that Laurel would try to make things better and to calm the situation but ultimately that was not going to happen.

DING!

The sound caused all three people to look at the office door; however, no one was there.

Laurel wasted no time in the opportunity, she kicked Slinky in the back of his right leg causing him to go down, and Tony quickly tried to grab the gun out of Slinky’s hand but the man punched him in the groin with his free hand sending Tony to the ground holding his crotch in pain.

Laurel lifted up her left foot and stomped onto Slinky’s right leg with her stiletto high heel shoe.

“GAH!” Slinky yelled out in pain as the heel stabbed through his leg and he kicked Laurel in the stomach sending her to the ground.

The Crisis Manager watched as a metallic ball rolled into the office from the hallway and she lowered her eyebrows at it. “What the hell?”

Slinky rose up from the ground and he aimed the gun at Laurel’s head. “You’re going to pay for that bitch!”

The metallic ball popped open and emitted a white gas into the air which caused Slinky to fall to the ground unconscious dropping the gun.

Tony looked over at Laurel, “Q-Quinn cover your m-mouth-ugh.” He stopped speaking and fell into an unconscious state.

Laurel laid on the floor unable to move as fast as she wanted to. Her eyelids felt heavily and she tried to crawl over toward the door, but she paused as she noticed a pair of black combat boots enter the office. She looked up and saw it was a mysterious person that entered wearing a gas mask on their face.

“Who a-are you?” Laurel asked slowly but she had no energy left to care or left to worry.

The entire room around her went black and she fell into an unconscious state.

New Year’s Day @ 9:20am:

The sound of thunder roared throughout the city of San New.

Everyone celebrated the welcoming of 2018 a few hours ago with fireworks, champagne and desperately trying not to make the same mistakes for the New Year; so they didn’t care much for the oncoming storm.

Laurel opened her eyes slowly as another round of thunder roared and this time it was accompanied by flashes of lightning. She quickly sat up and realized she was on her Queen sized bed located in her bedroom.

“What the hell?!” She quickly jumped off the bed, stormed over toward the bedroom door, and quickly opened it.

“Tony? Tony?” She stormed down the hallway and made a quick right turn into her living room where she spotted Detective Oliver Morales standing in her kitchen pouring a fresh pot of coffee into a pink and black mug.

“Detective Morales?” She asked completely caught off guard by the handsome man.

Detective Morales smiled at her nodding his head. “Please forgive me if I was rummaging through your cabinets loudly. It seems you really aren’t as organized as you look.”

“Excuse me?” Laurel asked placing her right hand on her hip.

The Detective placed the pot of coffee back on the machine and he flashed a devilish grin. “I can assure you this doesn’t look as bad as you think.”

“Oh? Between you breaking into my apartment or between you-“ She stopped speaking and looked around her living room. “Where the Hell is Tony? If you laid a finger on him I swear I will kill yo-“

“Did anyone tell you when you get upset and start threatening people you have a vain that pops out on your forehead that makes you look very, very beautiful?”

The Crisis Manager wanted to reply with a snarky remark but she was caught off guard by his suave compliment and she watched as he took a sip of the coffee slowly enjoying the Vanilla flavor.

It took him more than twenty seconds to swallow the coffee and he placed the mug back down on the counter. “Ah, I must admit you have amazing taste in coffee. It’s scary yet refreshing.”

“If this is your form of torture please just kill me now.” She stated dryly.

He flashed a smile revealing his off-white teeth and he shook his head. “I’m not going to kill you. I wasn’t hired to do that. I was hired to protect you- well really to watch you. Apparently you’re a wildcard that doesn’t listen to authority…which by the scene I walked in on yesterday, that statement proved to be true.”

“So my father hired you, why am I not surprised? He never did trust me. But to hire a Detective, that’s a new one.”

Oliver smiled and he placed the mug inside of the sink and leaned against the counter facing Laurel. “I’ll have you know Laurel; I’m not some stranger that just came on the scene. My father was Diego Morales. He was your father’s best friend.”

Laurel didn’t want to admit that she had no idea who Diego was because she wasn’t really as close to her father growing up as she would like to admit. She was closer to her mother more than anything.

She flipped her hair back and smirked. “So he hired you as part of charity work?”

Oliver chuckled. “He did say you had humor. I love a woman who is witty. It makes the chase more fun.”

“Ugh!” Laurel stated rolling her eyes. “Tell me where the hell is Tony?”

The handsome Hispanic man nodded his head slowly. “I’m getting there.” He ran his fingers through his black hair as if he was an Instagram model trying to get a good selfie and she couldn’t help but roll her eyes once more.

He cleared his throat and continued on, “Okay, so Vincent got in contact with me after he heard you had your ex-husband killed and he needed me to portray a Detective from Borger County and try to divert the investigation away from you and more toward his assistant. Which wasn’t hard to do since she really did hate David more than anything. So you’re welcome for that.”

Laurel couldn’t help but snicker at the man’s cockiness and she crossed her arms across her chest listening as he continued on.

“He then told me he had a feeling Slinky wasn’t being as honest as he had hoped. He had seen his former friend speaking to competing bosses and well, you know more than anyone how he hates people plotting against him. So he had me watch Slinky and I was very shocked to see he was actually evil. I mean who would’ve seen that coming?” Oliver chuckled at the question and he shook his head, once again continuing.

“I walked into that chaotic scene last night and I decided the best option to take was to walk into your office guns blazing, unfortunately Slinky was waaaay too close for me to shoot him without injuring you or Tony, so I decided to-“

“Knock us out with poisonous gas?” Laurel added.

Oliver thought about the question for a few seconds and he nodded his head. “It wasn’t poisonous at all. All it did was knock you all out and put you in a unconscious state. It could’ve been worse. So once again you’re welcome.”

Laurel ignored his comment and asked again, “Where’s Tony?”

Oliver let out a sigh. “He’s alive. He woke up a few hours ago after I put him on the sofa and he received a call from the hospital that his boyfriend woke up from his coma.”

Oh thank God! Laurel sighed in relief to know one part of her fears wasn’t going to come true. She straightened her posture and looked at Oliver. “What about Slinky?”

“Don’t worry about him. He’s been taken care of.” The deep throated voice didn’t come from Oliver, it instead came from the doorway of Laurel’s apartment and she looked to find her father Vincent Capella standing there with the door open.

“Seriously! Does anyone ever wait until I invite them in?” Laurel asked shaking her head.

Vincent left the door open and he glanced over at Oliver. “I want to thank you for everything you’ve done Morales. Is it possible I can speak to my daughter in private?”

“Ofcourse boss.” Oliver walked out of the kitchen and he bowed before Laurel as if she was royalty, causing Laurel to shoot him a glare. He straightened his back and walked out of the apartment closing the door behind him.

“Seriously?!” Laurel asked angrily. “You hired that Mooch to protect me? Not that I need any protection to begin with!”

Vincent calmly heard his daughter and he nodded his head. “That ‘Mooch’ saved your ass. If it wasn’t for him you would be heavily investigated by the Borger County idiots right now, so at least have some appreciation.”

Laurel giggled as her father-the ‘Notorious Crime Lord’ of New York City told her to have some ‘appreciation’ as if she needed to thank him or accept the fact presented to her.

She breathed in through her nose and breathed out calming her heartbeat. It was never a dull moment between the father and daughter and she did not expect this time to be any different.

The Crisis Manager ran her fingers through her Auburn hair and looked at her father trying to hide away any resentment she had toward him. “What are you doing here? If it’s to check up on me, I am fine. I am always fine when someone tries to kill me. That’s part of my job and apparently, thanks to you it’s also part of my life.”

Laurel decided to walk into her kitchen because at that exact moment she needed some coffee in her system. Sure, it wasn’t going to be the delicious coffee Tony usually brought her every morning but it would be enough to get her through this unwanted visit from her father.

Vincent slowly approached the kitchen.

For a Crime Lord he was big in stature. Tall and a bit hefty, his size would make anyone who had eyes wary of his presence. However, his facial expression showed something Laurel had never seen before; regret and fear.

She ignored her mission for coffee and looked at him. “Dad, what is it?”

“I found the person who put the bounty on your head.”

“Great! We can find this bastard and then kill him. Just let me get some coffee in my system first.”

Vincent shook his head, “No…I…um…It isn’t going to be as easy as you think. This person has connections, ties to Russia, North Korea, China…I mean this person is dangerous and I’m afraid, I won’t be able to help fix this.”

“That’s you!” Laurel stated. “I have connections and I am nothing like you. I will not stop until this person is dead! I have clients that need my full attention and I can’t help them if I’m dealing with dodging bullets everywhere I go.”

Her father understood more than anything what she was going through and he couldn’t imagine how hard it must be for her to do her job, while also dealing with a bounty that was put on her head.

As much as Laurel tried to distance herself from the works of Vincent and all the enemies he had, it just ended up biting her in the ass; and to make matters even more worse, the news he had was something he was dreading to tell her in the first place.

He entered the kitchen slowly and carefully looked at his daughter. “Laure…this time it’s different. This time it’s my fault…and I’m afraid you’ll need to leave the city until this dies down.”

The thought of Laurel leaving San New, in the beginning of 2018 was a joke that made her laugh without a moment to think. “That’s never going to happen.” She stated. “I have an obligation to help my clients and to save their reputations.”

“And you also have an obligation to stay alive! You can’t help them if you’re dead!” Vincent shouted angrily.

Laurel had never seen him angry to the point that his face would be redder than a tomato and he never once yelled at her either. This made Laurel wonder just how serious and dangerous this person truly was. “Dad…who is this person?”

The Crime Lord grabbed her hands and stared right into his daughter’s hazel eyes. “The person that ordered the hit…is Dinah Gabor.”

Laurel’s eyes widened in shock as the name echoed in her mind. “Dinah Gabor? As in the Mayor of New York City? Why would she want me dead?”

“Well, you and she have history and she believes if you’re dead sooner rather than later, the history you two share will never be exposed.”

“History?” Laurel asked in confusion. “What history? I barely spoke to this woman or let alone acknowledged her existence.”

Vince caressed his daughter’s hands and he let out a soft sigh. “Laurel…there’s something I haven’t told you…Dinah Gabor…she’s your birth mother.”

Laurel snatched her hands back as her heart sank to her stomach and for the first time ever, Vincent saw something in his daughter’s eyes that he had never seen before geared towards him. Hatred.

The End

Edwin Betancourt is an actor and writer hailing from the Bronx, NY. He has been writing since the age of 14 and hasn’t stopped since. He is excited to announce his screenplay Samus’ World is premiering in September on Ally.Tv and it will be their first scripted show! He is eagerly cooking up new trouble and scandals for Laurel Quinn and it smells delicious!

You can follow Edwin on Twitter (@EddyBee26) for the latest updates on his upcoming projects.

 

 


Publicity!: Scandals of a Hollywood Crisis Manager

Laurel Quinn is Hollywood's best kept weapon. She is the CEO and President of 'Publicity!', her own Crisis Management firm where she "fixes" a scandal making it disappear so it doesn't damage her client's reputation. It doesn't matter where her clients fall: A-list, B-List, C-List or D, she takes on every client with the same respect. Armed with her sharp tongue, quick wits, six inch stilettos and the help of her mysterious Assistant Tony Vincetti; Laurel will do anything it takes to get the job done--even if it means blood has to be shed. While she works around the clock to make sure her clients' skeletons stay buried, it's not long until her own skeletons start to surface, causing her world to shatter. This book contains twelve short stories about Laurel Quinn that are filled with absurd characters, shocking twists and turns, scandals ripped from the tabloids that she has to fix and while doing so; she is faced with a personal tragedy that will reveal secrets from her past, expose lies and drop a major bombshell that will show readers; just how dangerous Laure Quinn truly is.

  • ISBN: 9781370786626
  • Author: Edwin Betancourt
  • Published: 2017-08-04 06:50:17
  • Words: 53246
Publicity!: Scandals of a Hollywood Crisis Manager Publicity!: Scandals of a Hollywood Crisis Manager