STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Xena, and Gabrielle, and the usuals are the property of Universal/MCA, and Renaissance Pictures. The use of the prior mentioned characters is strictly for fun, not for profit. No plagiarist activity or theft of character is intended in any way. Besides, this is an attempt at an Uber story, so nothing really needs to be disclaimed. Any similarities to existing people, is strictly coincidental. <G>
SUBTEXT: Ah yes, subtext. This story does contain major references to the loving relationship between two women, and then some. If this is not your cup of tea, then DON'T DRINK! Or read for that matter. If you are under 18, please move on. If this type of subject matter is illegal in your state, then move out, or move on with the 18-year-olds. After all, this world has many resources, however some things are just not meant for some people. Please do us all a favor, and surf on down the line.
VIOLENCE: Yes, there are some incidents of violence, so wear your boots and helmet, and duck if anything comes flying your way.
Winters deepest sleep hides an Inner Life,
Its glow is the dream of spring.
********Starbucks Coffee Ad********
CHAPTER TWO: Planetary Convergence (where do we go from here)
An hour or so after Dr. McIntyre drove away, Kate was finally sleeping soundly. Diane and Michael had managed to rustle up some lunch for everyone, and then Diane offered a clean pillowcase to Jessica for Kate's pillow. She carefully slid Kate over onto her second pillow, and then changed the soiled one. Jessie thoughtfully put the pillowcase into the sink in the bathroom, soaking in cold water.
Much to Michael's delight, Kate's roomie Steve came home early from work, anxious to check on his friend, and make sure she was doing okay. After he assured himself that she was in good (make that great) hands, he busied himself chit chatting with Diane and Michael. He was absolutely stunned, and charmed by Michael, although he was trying to be very careful not to show it. The two men, and the personnel agent quietly speculated on what kind of vibes were passing between the Actress and the PA. They were trying to whisper so Jessie wouldn't hear them.
"Do you think that your sister saw Kate's shrine?" Steve giggled almost out of control.
Michael showed definite surprise on his handsome features. "Shrine? What shrine?"
Steve giggled even harder, especially when he felt Diane's stare burning holes in him. "Oh, God, she will kill me if she finds out I told you." He pretended to look around for spies. "Come with me." Then for Diane's benefit, "Hey, don't look at me like that. It's my office too, and if I want to show my friend something in my office, then that's my business." Diane just shrugged her shoulders in mock disgust. She knew she should be getting back to the office, but this was just so much more fun. Even better than soap operas!
Diane decided to check on the other two, and see how they were doing. Stepping through the doorway, she stopped short at the scene in front of her. Kate was sleeping quietly, the pills effectively doing their job. Subconsciously or not, Kate's hand lightly held Jessica Ryan's hand. Jessie held her head in her other hand, looking as though she had a monumental headache coming on.
"Are you all right Ms. Ryan? Is there anything I can do for you, honey?" Diane whispered.
Jessie looked up at her, blinking slowly, as if trying to clear the fog from her eyes. "I'm fine Diane, thanks. I'm just a little tired, and I have this recurring headache thing going on. Dr. McIntyre says it's from stress. It will go away in a while."
"Well, honey, it sure looks like you don't feel too well. And you have to shoot tonight, don't you? Wow, it's a shame you can't call in sick." She pursed her lips with concern.
"Gregory would probably hunt me down and shoot me if I didn't show up for work tonight. As it is, he is probably having small spotted lizards right about now over the Japanese delegates. But you know what Diane? I don't give a damn. Anyway, listen do you think Kate will come to work for me. I really am tired of the people that Gregory has surrounded me with. Bunch of low-life deadbeats." Jessie fairly spit the words out.
"Well, judging by the fact that she's holding your hand, and hasn't imploded yet, I'd say probably she will. What happened this morning anyway? She dodged me like a cat with it's tail on fire. Speaking of cats, are they bothering you? I can put them somewhere else." She referred to the two furry bodies that had managed to incorporate themselves into the scene.
"Oh, no, they're fine. I love cats. I haven't had any in a long time, because Gregory is allergic. Michael brought one to me as a gift once, and Gregory had one of his flunkies take it away. I still think he had it killed, but he refuses to admit it. Michael has a cat, so I visit with his every once in a while." She frowned again at the pain in her head. "Listen, I'm going to have to leave soon, but if you could give Steve my private cell phone number, I would greatly appreciate it. I know I can trust you all not to post it on the internet or anything. I would like to know how Kate is doing. We probably shouldn't meet again about the job, until she's feeling better. By the way, was that Steve you were giving the blow by blow to earlier?"
Diane really blushed this time, so much so, she had to look away. "Oh, sorry, I just knew he would want to know about Katie, so I called him. If I hadn't he would have killed me for sure."
Jessie chuckled at the Personnel Agent's confession. "I just wanted to make sure I wasnt going to have to fend off any tabloid reporters. You know that Sharon McAfee, shes like a dog in heat when she gets around me. And that skinny ass, pimply faced photographer of hers is gonna get the surprise of his life if he doesnt back off of me. Im actually surprised they didnt track me here. I often suspect Gregory of calling them and telling them where I am." Diane caught a slightly feral glint in those crystal blue eyes.
"Oh honey, I would never, ever cough up anything to a tabloid. Theyve chased me at some of my "not your better events", because I have such a close relationship with so many of my clients. Do you know to date Ive been offered over $7 million dollars to tell stories about my customers. Hell, I dont need the money, they just dont know that. Between my personnel business, and my husband Brads stunt company, we are quite comfortable." Diane smiled, rather proud of herself.
"Well, I appreciate the discretion. As youve heard, things are not all rosy in the palace. And the princess is getting pretty sick and tired of it. All the tabloids would need is another excuse, and then things really would blow up. I just need some time, and then it wont matter anymore." Jessie turned into her thoughts.
"Whoa, honey, dont do anything silly. I mean, you still have a couple of years left on your contract right? Its next to impossible to break a contract like that. You would probably never work in this town again." Diane replied, a little panic in her voice.
"Oh, dont worry. I wouldnt be that stupid. Besides for the most part I like what I do. I just dont like what the people around me think is right for me. They are so filthy, and self centered. They suck the life out of me. It makes it not fun anymore." A small tear trickled down her beautifully sculpted cheekbone.
"I like what you do." Kate mumbled from her drug induced sleep.
"Ha, do you think she might remember any of this?" Diane burst into a fit of giggles.
Seriously Jessie caught her eye again. "I can only hope so."
Stunned, Diane sat down on the edge of the vanity chair. "Wow, you really like this kid dont you. I mean besides just another gopher to the group?"
"Shhh, dont wake her. Yeah, I guess I do. I dont understand it, and maybe Im wrong, but I feel so comfortable with her. She is so . . .so . . .I dont know how to describe it. And to think, I met her for the first time just this morning, but I feel as though Ive known her forever." Jessie mused at this thought. "Well, much as I hate the thought, I have to get ready to shoot tonight, and its getting late."
Diane stood, and placed her hand on Jessie ample shoulder. "Listen for what its worth, if there is anything me or Brad can do, we would be happy to help out. We both have connections in this town, some shady, and some not. I think you need a break Ms. Ryan. Ive been in this business for a long time, and I am quite familiar with the shenanigans that go on with jerks like your husband, and his idiot friends. Especially after what happened to Katie here." She stopped herself short. "Oops, I bet shell kill me if she knows I just slipped."
Jessica looked fondly at her sleeping charge. "I already know what happened. Thats how all of this ended up this way in the first place. Are you familiar with Jackson Briggs?" Getting an affirmative nod, she continued. "He made her tell the whole story in front of me and that herd of sheep he insists on surrounding me with. I tried to tell her she didnt have to, but she was insistent. Apparently Jackson is friends with the man that . . . raped her. I fired him right after she left. Ive signed with Margaret James. I met her at an awards show last fall. She seems to know her stuff, and I felt she could use the account."
Impressed at the tall, dark haired womans sensitivity, Diane mock saluted her. "You know she could use an account like yours. Ever since she represented those two lesbian actresses, and that lesbian singer, she lost several of her accounts. She doesnt give a rats ass, but I know it hurt her. Representing you would be a, should we say, feather in her cap."
Reluctantly, Jessie carefully removed her hand from Kates grasp. Kate whimpered in her sleep, and then drifted back out again. Diane grabbed one of the cats from the end of the bed, and made it curl up next to its human mommy. The cat was only too happy to oblige.
"Sometimes I think she loves those things more than people." Diane chuckled.
"Somehow, I dont think I blame her." Jessie mused.
Diane walked her to the door, and at the same time they both realized that something was missing, or rather someone. It seemed that Steve and Michael shared more than a passing interest in some of the same subjects. Buried in a huge pile of pillows in the family room, they were watching the tape of the latest production of CATS. They both looked up grinning, when the two women stepped into the room.
"Aww, I guess we have to leave now." Whined Michael.
"Awww, cant he stay? I promise to feed him, and take care of him." Steve mock whined himself.
"Alright you two, enough of that. I have to get to the studio, and Im already in enough trouble as it is. I think if I drove the limo in myself, they really would give birth to small animals or something." Jessie joked.
"I could drive you in." Kate slurred from somewhere behind her.
Turning, she put her arm out just in time to catch her friend before she slipped to the floor. Kate started to giggle out of control, and shamelessly wrapped her arms around Jessicas neck.
"Don ju wan me to driving yo der?" she slurred. "Id cud be fan!"
"Oh no, I dont think so. Thats Michaels job, and I dont think we want to take his job, now do we?" Jessie spoke low in her ear.
"Oh, buttttt, they luke so cutie togedder. Ju nose, jude are sooooooo bootimus. Kin I working for ju? I cud ju nose." She slurred proudly.
"Sure, I want you to work for me. When you are better. Now, lets get you back in bed. You need to sleep some more." Jessie was blushing at the poor girls candid conversation. She knew that Kate would probably rather die, than be acting like this in front of everyone, especially Jessica Ryan.
Easily picking Kate up in her arms, Jessie carried her back to her room, and carefully laid her back in her bed. Pulling the covers up, she was stopped by a hand on her arm.
"You are sooo strong." Kate said quite clearly. "Staying with me now? Oh, quazy me. Ju are having to werk." She laid down again, and pulling her fat cat into her arms, mumbled to Jessie, "Thank you, for evwytinks."
Jessie smiled, and shook her head. Sheesh, she just might kill all of us, when she finds out what she just said. I dont suppose I could talk the rest of them into not telling her. Nahhh, Id have to sit on Diane, and Steven for a week to get them to keep their mouths shut. She brushed Kates hair out of her eyes one more time, and then sighing deeply, went back out to face the world again.
The three musketeers, Diane, Steve, and Michael quickly retreated when they realized they were about to get caught for eaves dropping. They all pretended to be looking at something else, when Jessie returned to the living room.
"Do me a favor, guys?" She cast the group a serious look. "Please dont pick on her too much. Shes already had a really nasty day, and I dont think it would be fair to make fun of her on top of it all. And Steve? Thank her for being so kind, and Diane, tell her the job is hers if she wants it."
With that said, she turned and strode out to the shining black limousine sitting in the street in front of the house. The neighborhood kids had been clustered around it for hours trying to figure out whose it was. A few parents had started to linger as well. When Jessie left the house to enter the car, a collective gasp was heard throughout the entire cul-de-sac they lived on. Both Kate and Steve were friendly with just about everyone in the neighborhood, especially the kids. When they discovered that the Jessica Ryan had been a guest, they couldnt wait to start pumping them for information. Jessie shook her head in amusement, as she and Michael drove away. If she wasnt so tired, she would have stopped and said something, just to get a reaction. Maybe next time, she thought, if there is a next time.
I watched you as I
watched a star,
struggling into view,
And loved you better
than you knew.
********Elizabeth Akers Allen********
CHAPTER THREE: Trouble, right here in River City
Michael chattered good naturedly all the way to the studio. Jessica, sitting uncomfortably in the back, wished for the millionth time that she could just sit up front with him, instead of all of this "Celebrity" mumbo jumbo. She was not your stereotypical actress. Much more comfortable in a casual atmosphere, she felt somehow out of place at all of the public affairs she was required to attend. The "dog and pony" show was overwhelming sometimes.
As they drove up to the main gate, Jessica noticed a golf cart rapidly heading their way. Much to her chagrin, and with not just a little stab of fear, she noted the driver was Gregory, her jerk of a husband.
Gregory pulled up alongside the limo, and got out of the cart. He reached for the door handle, but Michael, seeing him much before his sister, had managed to lock the doors before Gregory had reached them. More angry than ever before, he started banging on the tinted glass, near where he knew she must be sitting.
"Come out of there damn it! Jessica you, you . . . .Aughhhhh!" he screamed, pounding on the glass. He even tried to kick the doors and the window with his foot. It never occurred to him that he had just kicked solid steel, and he had ordered the car himself, from the best company in the world for vehicular security. Falling to the ground in pain, he writhed like a snake thats been run over by a semi. Michael took the opportunity to continue on through the gate, and head directly to the studio. The security guards just shook their heads. They were all too familiar with the stupidities of the Executive Producer lying at their feet.
"Hey sis, that was fun dont you think?" Michael called back cheerfully.
"Yeah, well, its not going to be fun when he catches up with me Michael. He just might try to hurt me this time." Jessica breathed out quietly. "Whatever you do, dont let anyone know where we were all day. If he finds out I stayed at Kates and actually did something nice for someone, hell implode."
Michael nodded his agreement. He knew only too well the extent of Gregorys anger when he was out of control. More than once his sister had been taken in to see Dr. McIntyre, supposedly because of injuries when doing her own stunts. No one had ever been able to prove that he was harming her, and she refused to talk about it. As long as he had this "secret" hold on her, she had to go along with just about everything he threw out at her, at least so she was concerned.
Michael had decided a long time ago, that if there was any way possible to stop Gregory, he would find a way. Even he wasnt sure of all of the details behind Gregorys hold on Jessica. He knew it had something to do with his mother, but Jessie kept evading his questions, preferring to take the burden of her secret, solely on her shoulders. She felt she was tough, and the only thing that Gregory could really steal from her, besides the secret she held, was her self respect, and her self esteem. Those were unimportant, as long as her secret stayed a secret. Even the specter of him outing her publically, and exposing her as gay held less of a threat, than anything else in her life. Someday, this would end. For the good, or not.
As soon as they reached the main studio, Jessica jumped out of the barely stopped limousine, and walked quickly in for a shower, and then make up, and costuming. She knew that Gregory would never start anything physical with her while they were in the studio. It was later after the taping that she would have to be careful. She was certain that others in the studio group were aware of his abusive tendencies, but they were either too scared to say anything, or they were members of his camp, and knew that if they stuck it out, then all would profit.
Jessica rounded the corner heading for the shuttle to take her to the shoot site. Tonight they were compiling some of the action stunts, and location shots at an abandoned factory near the warehouse district. The technicians had been through the facilities over the weekend, installing various sparking and explosive devices. The scene involved "Kendra Knight" and her sidekick chasing down a group of mechanically enhanced cyber terrorists. They were attempting to gain control of a chemical in a fine powder form, that when exposed to electronics in a controlled environment, say through a ventilation system, caused the equipment to act erratically, and eventually fail. The organization intended to use the substance to crash the worlds largest server network, and thereby destroy all internet commerce, causing businesses, and the exchange of money via cyberspace to halt.
The terrorists represented a spin off rogue religious group formed from the frenzied riots that occurred on New Years Eve, 2000. It was believed but never proven, that the hype built around the "Y2K" problems that were expected to arise at the change of the century never materialized therefore destroying any hope of what this group had prayed would occur, the demise of future life conducted on a computer. They, even in their own enhanced bodies did not recognize, or admit that they were violating their own beliefs. Of course they felt that they were the only pure race, and therefore it was acceptable that they be computer assisted in their bodily functions.
Jessica almost made it to the doorway to the waiting shuttle, when someone grabbed her from behind, knocking her off balance, and dragging her into a darkened side room. She struggled to escape, but her attacker was taller and stronger than she was. He pinned her arms to her sides, very likely leaving bruises under the black jumpsuit she was wearing, and backed into the room. Her mind raced, trying to think of possible ways to escape, or alert someone to her disappearance. The door slammed shut, and she realized that there were several others in the room, besides the lunk that was squeezing her in his smelly grip.
"So, honey, Im home." Gregory hissed.
"What do you want you slimy little bastard?" she hissed back.
"Oh, come on now Jess. You and I both know that you are exhibiting a little bit too much aggression here lately. I dont appreciate your attempts at changing your staff, or missing meetings, and then helping little damsels in distress. It upsets the image Ive created for you, darling." His words dripped with menace.
"Drop dead Gregory. Im tired of being surrounded by that mutant human trash you so fondly call your "Little Family". They make you look like a demented clown, in a Stephen King movie. You made the world believe that Im as nasty as you are, and made me something Im not. I cant tell you how much I hate you." Jessica growled between clenched teeth. "If you hold me here much longer, theyll come looking. Wouldnt want the "Powers That Be" to get suspicious would you?"
Gregory strode over, and being careful not to mess up her hair and makeup, grabbed the shoulder of her jumpsuit. "Shut your mouth, bitch! You are not going to do anything to mess this up for me. Ill take you down, ruin your life, your familys life, and maybe ruin your face, just for fun. All I need is two more years, and Ill have everything I want. If its any consolation to you, Ill let you have your little PA, but trust me. Im gonna be watching you, and if I dont like whats going on, Ill get rid of her too." He pushed her back against her captor, and stepped to the door. Gesturing to the rest of his crew, he carefully opened the door, and then walked purposefully down the hallway.
The huge bodyguard, that her husband kept with him at all times, shoved Jessica out of the way, but not before he took it upon himself to squeeze her right breast. HARD! She lashed out with her foot, grazing his groin, and then wound back for a much better aimed kick at the offensive giant. He stuck his hand out, as if to say "I could crush your skull with one hand, dont try it". Jessica spit at him, and then headed for the door. He grabbed her arm, and pulling her back shook a large sausage-like finger at her as he exited first, chuckling to himself all the way down the hall.
Feeling sick, and angrier than ever, Jessica straightened her costume, and then took several much needed breaths to steady herself before she continued to the waiting shuttle. It took every ounce of her inner strength to maintain a semblance of dignity in front of the rest of the crew, especially her co-star.
Deborah Springfield had been a character actress since she was a small child. Never the star, but a good strong support person, she had an easy, even attitude, and an above average athletic ability. She was an even 54" tall, a lite 120 lbs, but an extremely strong set of muscles. She had already worked with her star, and now friend Jessica for at least three years, plus a few side jobs as well. They tended not to get involved in each others private lives, but still maintained a very good "family" like relationship on the job.
Deborah looked carefully at her friend when she stepped into the shuttle. She recognized the look of thinly veiled distress in Jessicas eyes, and immediately became concerned. She tried not to press Jessica for too much information, because she didnt want to make her angry, or embarrass her. Jessica had told her a small part of the problems she was having, but did not want to go into any details. Deborah was not one to meddle anyway. She had her own problems, and didnt need some womanizing jerk messing in her life.
"Are you okay, Jess?" Deborah whispered.
"Yeah, just another day in my miserable life. Thanks for asking though." Jessica smiled weakly.
Jessica forced herself to mentally prepare for the upcoming shoot. There was nothing she wanted more than to sneak away, and forget about all of this. Just erase herself from this life, or at the very least, maybe visit her new Personal Assistant, and hopefully new friend Kate. Her thoughts strayed to the younger woman with the soft reddish blonde hair. Jessica felt her face turn hot. Well, got to stop that kind of thought immediately. Except, well, I just wonder how shes doing, if shes okay or not. Yeah, sounds good Ryan, stick to that story. Sheesh, I wonder if I might be dragging her into something too dangerous. Maybe I shouldnt have tried so hard to hire her. If that kind of attack ever occurred with her around, she just might try to protect me, and would that be so bad? Yeah, it would, especially if she got hurt. Think Jess! What are you doing here? Why did you persue her so hard? Yeah, I dont know what Im doing either.
While his sister was somewhere on the other side of the city fighting with herself over her motives for hiring Kate McKenna, and recovering from her attack, Michael was driving back to the house where all of these troubled thoughts centered. He had taken the plunge, and asked Steve out for dinner and a movie. And Steve eagerly accepted. There was something, almost sparkly between them, even from the first time they laid eyes on each other.
Michael pulled into the driveway, just as Kate was beginning to stir. She was feeling a little groggy still, and had one heck of a powerful headache. Despite the fog surrounding her, she remembered some mighty powerful dreams. Something about being visited by Jessica Ryan, her favorite actress, and then falling asleep with her head in Ms. Ryans lap. She staggered into the bathroom, and nearly fainted, when she turned the light on and got a good look at herself. Wow, anybody get the number of that truck? Holy cow, I look . . . . nasty!
Kate bent down, and threw some cool, refreshing water over her face, and tried to make herself somewhat presentable. Slowly some of the events of the day were sneaking their way back into her clouded memory. She remembered only too well the encounter at her job interview with Jackson Briggs this morning. And she also remembered how her own secret hero, Jessica Ryan, came to her rescue, and persued her even to her home, to persuade her to work for her. Kate slowly touched the back of her head, and tenderly felt the small stitches that the doctor had put there to close the nasty cut she had gotten from falling in the driveway.
Embarrassed, she decided to seek out her roommate Steve, and see if he could enlighten her as to the rest of the afternoon. She vaguely remembered seeing his face floating in the fog somewhere, and figured if anyone had time to put together all of the pieces, it would be him. As she rounded the corner into the living room, the doorbell rang. She noticed Steve almost running to answer it, leaving a cloud of his favorite cologne in his wake when he passed. Coming to a halt, he carefully checked his clothes, then his hair. Kate recognized the signs of a hot date, and she could tell that her best "real" friend was clearly excited.
"Pssst. . . .Steve." Kate whispered. "Steve, come here a minute."
Steve turned around so fast he almost fell over his own feet. "What? I have company waiting. Im going out tonight."
"Well, sorry!" Kate answered a little hurt. "I was just letting you know I was still alive, and trying to see if I could figure out whats going on. Never mind." She turned and headed back to her bedroom, a small tear sliding down her cheek.
Steve mentally kicked himself. Damn, sometimes I can be such an incredible idiot. She doesnt even know whats been going on, and shes got this injury, and all I care about is this hot man Im about to go out with. Boy I am a piece of work.
He quickly opened the door, and then grabbing Michael by the hand, dragged him immediately back to Kates room. She was already back in bed, with the blankets over her head. The events of the day had finally crept back in, and she couldnt hold back the tears any longer. Her thoughts wandered back to Jessica Ryan. Kate had already decided that she would work for her, because it was painfully apparent that Jessica needed a good right hand.
"Hey, look whos here. Michael wanted to say hi, and see how youre doing, Katie." Steve interrupted her thoughts rather lamely.
"Steven, go out, have fun, well talk later." Kate mumbled from her spot.
Catching on to the problem, Michael shook himself loose from Steves grasp, and went over and sat on the edge of the bed. Poking the lump under the covers experimentally, he looked at Steven with a "Watch this" glance, and then started to tickle the lump most heartily.
"Stop! IT!" Kate squealed, expecting Steven to be the one assaulting her. Throwing back the covers, she sat up preparing to defend herself, when to her astonishment, she was face to face with an almost, but not quite, match to her idol, and soon to be boss.
"Whoa there sweetie." Michael grinned, "Dont hurt me.
"Hey, I remember you. Youre Michael." Kate looked at him slightly perplexed.
"Yep, all my life. So, sweetpea, how are you feeling? Cause I know if I dont get the entire 411 on how you are, I might end up suffering at the hand of my lovely sister Jessica." Michael grinned wider.
Kate blushed a furious red. "I umm. . . .I, well, I guess Im okay. I have a headache, and I seem to be only a little disoriented, but Ill live. Of course being surrounded by the likes of you boys, I dont know if Ill ever recover." She said in her best Scarlett OHara voice.
Both men laughed heartily with Kate. She was already best friends with Steve, and rapidly growing fond of Michael. And not because of who his sister happened to be. Michael was charming, sweet, and cute. If she dated men, and he dated women, she would probably be attracted to him. But . . .well, Im not, and neither is he, and well, he has absolutely the yummiest sister . . . .Kate quickly stopped herself from continuing those thoughts. She was already having doubts about her feelings for Ms. Ryan, and was certainly in no position to assume that Jessica had any special feeling for her.
"So, where are you two headed tonight?" Kate asked, changing the subject.
"We thought we would head over to Gianellis for dinner, and then on to the cineplex to see Virus. That new movie with Jamie Lee Curtis. We figure it will be a great excuse to hang on to each other, and scream like girls." Steve chuckled.
"Ooh, Im jealous." Kate pretended to frown. "I havent been to Gianellis seems like forever, and wow, a new Jamie Lee Curtis. Well, have fun, and dont stay out too late. I dont want to sit here worrying about you two all night."
"Yes, mother. By the way, were walking, since everything is so close. And it will be good for us to walk off some of that food. Oh, and sweetie, dont stay up all night talking to Laura. I know youre dying to tell all, but you need to get better so you can start your new job." Steve winked at his friend.
"Hey, cool. Ill get to drive you around too. This is going to be great." Michael blurted happily. "And my sister will finally have someone to talk to besides me. I mean she likes me and all, but I know she gets tired of me sometimes. Oh yeah, and a friend too. I dont think shes had any real friends in I dont know how long. Ever since that jerk Gregory got his hands on her."
Michael cut himself short. He just realized that he was about to maybe spill a bunch of stuff he shouldnt. Whew Jessica is going to kill me for sure. I have to be more careful.
Kate politely refrained from commenting on Michaels sister, or her situation. She decided that when Ms. Ryan was ready, she would tell her what she wanted her to know. Until then, Kate would be as supportive as she possibly could, and then some.
The three friends, new and old, said their goodbyes, and then when Kate was sure she was alone, she called Jessicas personal phone number.
"Hi, you have reached 555-7863. If I didnt give this number to you personally, then you have dialed the wrong person. Leave a message . . . .BEEP! " Kate was momentarily speechless, just hearing Jessicas voice. "Umm, uhhh, hi. Uhh, this is Kate McKenna. I wanted to thank you for helping me this afternoon. I . . . feel extremely stupid. Anyway, I also wanted to let you know that I would be honored to accept the job as your Personal Assistant. I just hope I dont let you down. You can call me directly if you want, or you can call Diane. Umm, thanks again, and take care. Bye now."
Blushing yet again, she hung up the phone, and then sat back for a minute. Her thoughts turned to the tall dark haired, blue eyed, actress. Even in Jessicas openness to Kate, she was still shrouded in clouds of mystery. I dont know what it is, but I am just totally drawn to this woman. I feel like she needs me. Maybe even more than both of us know. Yeah, right, someone needs you. Get a life McKenna! You sound positively addle-brained.
While she mused about her new boss, and got ready to undergo a torrent of questioning from Diane, she turned on her computer. She was eager to chat with her friend Laura. She knew she had to be careful how much information she gave out, because even though Laura was her best friend, it was totally against protocol to gossip too much about Ms. Ryan. That would be considered a security leak of the utmost intensity.
She dialed Dianes number. "Hello, this is Diane" "Hi Diane this is Kate. I just wanted to let you know that Im feeling better. Oh, and I know this will make your day, but I decided to take the job with Jessica Ryan. I left her a message to either call you or me." She smiled to herself. "Are you done yet honey? Cause I want to know about the electricity between you two, and I want to know about Steven and Michael. Spill it. Ive been beside myself waiting to find out all the juicy gossip." Diane huffed a time or two.
Kate mentally sighed, she was not ready to evaluate, and then gossip with Diane about the days events. She gave her a brief synopsis of the events, carefully avoiding any discussion about her and Ms. Ryan. Diane was excited about Steve and Michael, and told her to tell Steve that she expected a full report in the morning. When the questions started to get more personal, she feigned a headache, and promised to update her more later.
Kate noticed her computer beeping at her, which signaled to her that Laura was online waiting for her. She clicked onto the Messenger icon, and typed in her greeting.
PAK: Hi Laura! How are you? I have some bizarre, and wonderful news for you.
LADY KNIGHT: Hey there yourself, girlfriend. So, whats all of the excitement about? Did you finally get Lola to stop pestering you? Or did you meet someone, and fall instantly in lust. Tell ..
PAK: You absolutely wont believe this . . . I dont work for Lola anymore. The agency called yesterday, and I was offered another assignment. The interview went really badly though, and the rest of my day was pretty bad, but it all worked out in the end . . . . I guess.L
LADY KNIGHT: Okay, so, who is the new client, are you taking the job, and whose rear-end do I need to kick, for messing with you? I can tell youre going to make me suffer for a while before you tell me the whole story.
PAK: You do know me too well. Lets see, where to begin. Well, Diane called to offer me the job of a lifetime, but I was immediately intimated, and sure that I wouldnt qualify for the position.
At this point Kate went on to describe the events of the day, including the dropped purse in the restroom, and the subsequent humiliating interview, and then her fall in the driveway. Laura was appropriately angered, concerned, and impressed. She was also getting peeved at her friend, because she had as yet to reveal the identity of her prospective employer.
LADY KNIGHT: Okay girlfriend, I love you to death, and I want to fly up there right now, and kick some major butts, however I can see you are being purposely vague with your information, and if you dont fess up soon, Im gonna go surf the Kendraverse, and ignore you the rest of the night.
PAK: Okay, I get you. Hold on to your seat my friend. You are about to die where you sit. I am going to work for . . . . .J
LADY KNIGHT: Who? Who is it?
PAK: Guess! 5 feet 11 inches tall. Long dark hair. Crystal blue eyes. Perpetual tan. . . .
LADY KNIGHT: OH MY GOD!!!!!!! You are not!!!! OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!
Kate was laughing so hard, she almost didnt hear the phone ringing. She picked it up, gasping for breath. "Hello? This is Kate."
"OH MY GOD!!!!!! And you are just now telling me this. I think Im dying. I mean it girlfriend, right now. When do you start. Im on the next plane. Oh my goodness, godness Agnes. This is incredible. I cant stand it. You are about to live my dream. I want to know when you are getting married. I dreamed about this you know. I told you she would find you. See how you are. Holy moley, I think Im going to blow a hose." Laura could barely take a breath with her excitement.
"Calm down." Kate giggled. "I just decided about an hour ago that I would even take the job. I was worried that it wouldnt work out, because of my fan status, and because of all of the trouble this morning. But Im a big girl, and a trained professional, and I should be able to keep my head on straight when Im working. Speaking of which, I wont have as much time to spend on the computer, but, Ill make sure to check in with you at the very least."
"Sweetheart do you realize that you have breached the final barrier. You are on the inside of the castle. Hell, youre the new Lady Knight, or the lady in waiting or something. So, to I get to meet her, or I am I just a commoner now?" Laura chuckled slyly.
"Well, you know that I wont be able to talk a lot about what goes on at my job and stuff. I mean, I am responsible for her security, and it wouldnt be fair or right to endanger her in any way. But you never know, she has a house up there somewhere, and I may have to be there to work, so maybe. I dont know yet. I dont even know what Ill be doing for that matter. I could just be picking up laundry, or dry cleaning, and walking the dog. As soon as I know, youll know." Kate replied. She didnt want to disappoint her friend, but she was fiercely loyal to her job.
"Yeah, I know. I think Im probably the only person on the planet, that can understand the nuances of being in the public eye. It can be a very lonely and dangerous lifestyle. You know, thats pretty funny. They say that about being gay just about every day." Laura sighed deeply.
Laura had an affair with an actress when she was very young. The woman was extremely paranoid of the outside world, especially the media. Laura was much younger, but very patient for her age. That trait has only increased the older she gets. The actress was an alcoholic, and prescription drug abuser. Laura managed to sober her up for several months, but it didnt last. A tabloid came out with a story about her, and within hours she was back on the old party wagon.
Laura drank too, but she couldnt cope with all of the fights, and trouble surrounding the situation. She had made some good friends in the industry, people who still checked up on her, and whose homes she still visited, but the actress had become part of her distant past. She had been with the same woman for at least 18 years, and was deliriously happy. They shared a home in Northern California, and were seldom apart. April coped with Lauras internet addiction, and shared a passing interest in her obsession with Jessica Ryan, but only in passing. That was Lauras affliction not hers. She loved Laura, and not much else mattered.
Kate agreed with Lauras remark about her knowledge of actresses. She was well acquainted with Lauras life, as was Laura about hers. They originally met on the internet, when the Kendra Knight show was first shown. They became fast friends, and had since met each other at least twice face to face. Kate had visited her mom up North, and it turned out that Laura and April lived pretty close. April wasnt sure if she should be jealous of Kate or not, but after meeting her, she decided that she was an okay kid. The two women also came to visit and stay for a few days when Kate was attacked. Laura was absolutely livid, and wanted to start taking out contracts on some of the men involved. Kate assured her that it wasnt necessary, that justice would serve.
"Well, I should probably get some rest. This thing on my head is really killing me." Kate said quietly.
"Yeah, me too. Its getting late, and April and I are going fishing in the morning. Still havent caught anything, but were working on it. So, keep in touch, and if theres anything I can do for you, let me know. And, take care of that pretty little head of yours. I dont want to have to come down there, and take care of you kiddo." Laura chuckled.
"I promise. It was really stupid. I have much better balance than that. I think anyway. Well, wish me luck. Ill talk, or type at you later." Kate chuckled back.
"Later my sweet." Laura whispered as she hung up. She had an especially soft spot in her heart for her younger friend, and hoped that this job worked out for her. When Kate had been attacked the prior year, it was everything Laura could do not to come apart at the seams. She had a lot of shady connections, and could easily have arranged some retribution. But Kate stopped her, preferring to let the law do its job. Unfortunately, looking back, she probably should have let Laura have her way.
I felt it shelter
to speak to you.
Chapter 4 The morning after
Kate logged off her computer, and then stopping in the kitchen for a cup of tea, headed back to her bedroom. She had a small TV with a built in VCR, and a large selection of Kendra Knight episodes on tape. She called to the cats, Corky and Violet, and then settled into her bed for some quality viewing. She must have dozed off and was dreaming, when she heard the phone ringing somewhere in the back of her mind.
"Hello?" She answered with a sleepy voice.
"Hi." An easily recognized sultry voice responded. "I thought I would give you a call and see how you are feeling. I hope I'm not disturbing you."
Kate sat bolt upright, giving herself a momentary brain pain. "Uh no, I was just resting and watching some television with the cats. I, um, I, well, how are you doing?"
"Well, I was quite relieved to hear that you are willing to take the job. Right now I'm waiting for my cue to shoot a fight scene. We just finished the choreograpy for the fight, and they shot the stand-in views. Next they'll fill in the face shots with me. I do a lot of my own stunts, but last year they almost dropped me from a scaffold about 60 feet up, and decided that it wasn't such a good idea anymore." Jessie chuckled warmly. She surprised herself at how easy it was for her to talk to her younger PA.
"Wow, they almost dropped you? I don't think I would do that anymore if I was you. How do you trust those guys?" Kate blurted nervously.
Jessica smiled. Even though her new friend and now employee had worked in the business for seven years, she realized that there would be a lot to teach her about producing a large scale action adventure every week. They were just getting started on the season, and had only filmed 3 of the 26 episodes. There were also several commercial spots, and a large number of public appearances to make as well. Since scheduling was to be a large part of Kate's responsibility, she would need to know about these kinds of things. Jessica made a mental note to have Alice, the office secretary, and all around "Know everything, and everyone gal" show Kate the ropes.
"Actually, I do trust them. The accident was just that, a faulty cable, on the winch that they were using to lift me to the top of the scaffold. We were shooting a sort of Batman-esque type of stunt, where I use a cable gun to secure myself to the beams above, and then you push a button, and you are being zipped rapidly upward. I wear a harness around my waist, and it was that cable that came loose. Fortunately the zip cable held my weight, or that would have been the end of that." Jessica was suddenly quiet.
Kate sensed a little tension on the other end of the line. "Hmm, almost sounds like the movies, where someone cuts the line, to kill the heroine. You must have been terrified." Seconds after the words left her mouth, she wished she hadn't said anything. Sometimes she talked too much for her own good.
"You're right. I never thought of that, and the possibility is very much there. Of course, it is the movies, it just wasn't in the script." Jessica was quieter still, clearly disturbed by her friend's revelation.
"I'm sorry Ms. Ryan. I didn't mean to upset you. Sometimes I just speak, without necessarily thinking about what I'm saying. I'll try to be more careful." Kate rapidly tried to make up for what she felt was a lack of compassion.
"Call me Jessie, and don't worry. I appreciate your honesty. Most people only tell you what they think you want to hear. In this business, they seldom tell the truth. Anyway, I was thinking you might be feeling well enough to meet with me, say, day after tomorrow. But only if you're feeling better. I don't want to rush you." Jessie was quick to add.
Without thinking, Kate plunged ahead with her response. "Actually, if you would like to come for lunch tomorrow, maybe we could meet then. I mean you already know where I live, and well, I was just . . . ." her thoughts trailed off. "Umm, sorry. There I go again. I, you, well, you probably have more important things to do tomorrow, so yeah, I can come to the office on Wednesday. That would be fine."
Jessie laughed out loud this time. "Umm, Ms. McKenna, I would be most honored to have lunch at your house. Say around noon? I'll have Michael bring me over if that's okay. I think he has something to do around that time anyway."
It was Kate's turn to laugh. "If those two have their way, you'll have to bring the car here to pick Michael up. Goodness, they were like two puppies that have met each other for the first time. They're so cute together. Oh, and call me Kate. Ms. McKenna is my mother."
"Kate it is then. Hmm, do you really think those two will hit it off?" Jessie mused.
"Are you kidding? Like two peas in a pod. I really like Michael you know. He's a really cute, and funny guy." Kate said quietly. "And at the risk of sounding to forward, or like a star struck fan or whatever, I really like you." Kate could feel herself blushing.
"I like you too, Kate McKenna." Jessie almost whispered. Catching a small sob in her throat, she covered the receiver so Kate wouldn't hear her.
"Well, I guess I'll be seeing you tomorrow then. I'll try not to poison you. Actually I think I cook pretty well, considering I get lessons via the internet from the best cook on the planet." Kate giggled.
"Yes, I do have to get back to the show. And I trust you not to poison me. By the way, who is it that you are taking lessons from? Wolfgang, Emeril?" Jessie asked.
"Oh, not anyone like that. From my friend Laura. She is hands down the best cook I have ever come across. She gives me lessons over the internet, and over the phone. I told her about the job, and she said if you were ever in Northern California, she'd be happy to cook dinner for you." Kate chuckled at her small white lie. She knew Laura would absolutely expire from the vapors if she heard her say that she would gladly cook for Jessica Ryan.
Jessica grinned broadly at the familiar way in which Kate talked to her, as though they had known each other for a much longer time. Almost like an old movie. The first time I saw you I felt as though I had known you for eternity. Holy Cow! I must be losing my mind. I actually thought something poetic. Yeowza!
"Hmm, I'll have to remember that the next time I travel up there. I have a house in the Santa Cruz Mountain area, so it's definitely a possibility. Diane did tell you that you may need to travel up there with me didn't she?" Jessica held her breath.
Not wanting to sound too eager, Kate casually answered. "Oh, she didn't go into details, but I assumed I would go where ever you want me to. I don't have any major ties, so it wouldn't be a problem. Actually, my mom lives up there with her fiance, but I don't see them that often. He travels all of the time, and she goes with him. I could always stay at their house though, or with Laura."
Hiding her disappointment, Jessica recovered her mental dignity at the thoughts that rapidly traveled through long dormant parts of her mind. "Umm, sure, or if it's not convenient, you can always stay at my home. That way you would have access to the computer, etc. It's going to be a while before I get up there anyway, but will keep those thoughts in mind."
Kate blushed again. If you only knew what those thoughts were Ms. Ryan, if you only knew! "Okay, fair enough." Kate almost choked on her words. "So, I guess I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"Yeah, I have to get back to work. They're starting to get noticeably nervous at my absence. I'm hiding behind some empty drums, so they can't find me. I'll talk to you later." Jessica whispered into the phone.
Kate smiled. Hiding behind drums. Whatever have I gotten myself into?
After Jessica hung up with Kate, she came out of hiding, and grabbed one of the studio gophers. "Do me a favor, and have my other driver waiting for me, just outside the gate here, engine running when the Director calls the shoot for the night. I . . . . have some things to do, and want to get going as soon as possible."
"Uh, sure Ms. Ryan, glad to oblige." The gopher hurried away to his task.
Jessica's real plan was to try and leave the site, and reach her home before Gregory caught up to her again. She really was in no mood to have to deal with him this evening.
She heard the Director's assistant calling everyone to their places, and hurried over to her position behind a large piece of machinery belching steam. Her sidekick Deborah came over and stood in front of her, providing an effective block to the laser blasts that were theoretically being fired at them. Deborah was completely encased in a neoprene, and plasticene suit, that simulated titanium steel. Only small parts of her face were visible. The actual laser blasts would be added into the footage during the editing process.
The Director called action, and the two actresses slipped into their alternate personas. The scene went relatively smooth, with no major problems or mistakes. As preplanned, one of the sidekick's arms froze in place at a most inopportune time, and "Kendra" had to simultaneously free the arm, and continue to fire her assault gun at the approaching enemy. The scene called for an intricate maneuver by both Deborah and Jessica, to simulate freeing the jammed arm, and wiping out several of their enemies.
As the enemies approached, "Kendra" linked her arm through her sidekick GNA7's jammed arm. GNA7 bent forward, and Kendra rolled across her back, and yanked the arm back into position, firing her weapon the entire time. As Kendra landed on her feet, she was supposed to grab GNA7's other arm, and pull her behind a support pillar, just as an explosion ripped through the factory. The actual explosion effects would be added at a later time, via a computer generated graphics team. However, the mini explosions for the benefit of the cast were big enough.
Jessica completed her roll, and as she stood to catch her sidekick, and pull her behind the pillar, she noticed a movement in the corner of her eye. She turned quickly, to take the brunt of the blow aimed her way, when Deborah stopped her first, by knocking her to the ground, and laying on top of her, letting her well padded suit take the hit. Someone had cut loose a rather large hook intended for moving large machinery, or steel beams from one end of the factory to the other. It was painfully obvious that the intention was to harm, or maybe kill Jessica Ryan.
As the explosions sounded around them, Deborah flattened herself and Jessica as small and as close to the floor as she possibly could. Faster and faster the hook came flying towards the two women. For a split second Deborah panicked, and tried to see if there was anywhere else they could roll to, but they were pinned too tightly between the various pieces of equipment. The hook swung into Deborah, imbedding itself into her cyber suit. As its momentum carried the hook past the two women, Deborah was lifted from her position on top of Jessica, and flung past where they were lying, and out into a clear area where the rest of the crew stood staring in horror.
Jessica quickly rolled as tight as she could against the base of a large control quiosk, and waited until the crew stopped the hook carrying her friend, and now lifesaver. As soon as she could, she sprang to her feet, and ran quickly to Deborah's side. Jessica could tell by the grimace on her face, that Deborah had been injured. The technical crew was busy, frantically trying to remove the costume encasing the actresses' body.
Reaching for her hand, Jessica held on while Deborah squeezed tightly in a wave of pain. "Deb, hold on, we almost have you out of there. Go ahead, squeeze with all of your might. I know it hurts, just hang on." Jessica kept up the banter, to keep Deborah focused on her, and not on what would be revealed when the suit was removed.
The crewman cutting the suit had just reached the final foot or so, when the sound of sirens broke through the chaos surrounding them. Someone had the foresight to call the paramedics. Leaving Deborah lying face down, they prepared themselves for the worst. With the assistance of the paramedics, and the crew, they carefully removed the sections of plastic and foam revealing Deborah's injuries.
"How bad is it Jess?" Deborah cried to her friend. "Tell me, am I bleeding?"
"A little, but it doesn't look very deep. It kind of looks like you may have broken some ribs, but I can't tell. I need to let the paramedics take a look at you Deb. I'll be right with you all the way." Jessica tried to remain calm. Every inch of her was on fire. The shock was just beginning to set in. The strongest part of her wanted to bolt as far and as fast as she could.
Suddenly Deborah grabbed her by the front of her costume. Pulling her close so she could whisper, she told her something that Jessica knew was true, but was afraid to hear. "Jess, it was Gregory and his goons. I saw that big hulking idiot of his sneaking around during the break, but I didn't think anything of it. Honey, they're trying to kill you."
"I thought so." Jessica whispered back. "He threatened me earlier. Said if I didn't quit causing trouble, he was going to get me. Too bad he's so lousy at it."
Deborah grimaced with the pain again. "Call the cops Jess! Call them now."
Jessica just shook her head no. She knew, and so did Deborah, that there was no way she could stop Gregory right now. He had complete and total control of her life, and until she could find a way to stop that, she had to try to stay alive. She never would have believed he would kill her, but something must have changed recently. She would need to call the lawyer later, and find out what they know.
Jessica backed out of the way, while the paramedics loaded Deborah into the ambulance. She assured Deborah, that she would call her family, and then meet her at the hospital.
The director approached her, and asked to speak to her privately. "Jess, what the hell is happening? Someone said that whoever did that was trying to kill you. Jessica we have to do something. This is only the third week of shooting. The sponsors will have our heads."
"Yeah, Deborah is badly injured, but I'm okay. But thanks for asking." Jessica sneered at him. "I agree, that someone is trying to kill me. I don't know who. I suggest that we completely close the set. Unless you absolutely have to be here, to do a job, you can't be on the set. That includes office personnel, and even my husband and his group. The only exception is my new Personal Assistant. She is a trained body guard, and I want her with me at all times. No one else. Unless you or I asked them to be there, and you better check with me before you allow them to walk on the set."
The director gulped back his fear of his greatest star. "I'm sorry Jess. Sometimes I forget what's important. People, not money. I am so used to being battered by Gregory over pennies, that I forget that I am human. I agree, that we should close the set. Gregory's not going to like it, but I don't exactly like him. And the PA is fine. I would feel better if someone with some kind of training was attending to you. My only problem, is what are we going to do without Deborah? She was hurt pretty bad, and I'm sure she won't be back for at least a few weeks."
Jessica pursed her lips in thought. "We can shoot around her temporarily. Were going to have to find someone to fill in temporarily until she gets back on her feet. And I think I have just the person to fit into the suit. Let me work on this, and Ill get back to you."
The director nodded his agreement, and then wandered off to finish closing the set. The editing crew would go back over the rushes later, and see if they could figure out just what happened. He could only hope that this didnt mean their set would be haunted forever after with this kind of garbage. He lived for the action adventure business, and didnt want anything or anyone to interfere. The fact that he was mostly terrified of Gregory and his men, didnt help.
Jessica quickly worked her way out to the waiting car. She intended to go directly to the hospital, and then head home for some much needed rest. The stresses of the day were wearing her down, and she had an early call at the gym before having lunch with Kate.
As she approached the limousine, the driver got out and came around to open the door for her. She didnt recognize him immediately, but her hackles started to rise automatically. Slowly looking into the dark interior of the car, she was relieved to find that it was empty. She got in, and gave him the address of the hospital, and then leaned back in the seats, and closed her eyes for a moment. A few minutes later, she felt the car slow down. Sitting bolt upright, she made a move to grab the door handle to jump from the car, but it was too late. Gregory opened one door while his goon Jerald opened the other. All means of escape had been cut off.
Sitting back quietly, and folding her hands in her lap, she waited for him to grab her. Every fiber in her body was tense. Tight like the strings of a violin. Gregory grinned his evil grin, and slipped into the seat beside her. Jerald took the seat across from them, primarily so that he could grin and snicker at her like some demented, crazed clown.
"So, honey, whats new? I hear you almost got a booboo. Tsk, tsk! You need to be more careful. You know what I mean? It wouldnt do to have our little starlet get injured. Especially so early in the season. Of course, I just finished signing the papers on your new insurance policy, and I made myself the beneficiary of everything. All we need is your little signature to make it legal." His attempt at baby talk made Jessicas stomach turn. "I made you an appointment for tomorrow, say around noon. Make sure you go there and get this done. We wouldnt want anymore accidents."
Jessicas shoulders slumped in near defeat. If Gregory managed to get her to sign these papers, then there would be no reason to keep her alive. He would end up with the insurance money, and have no need for the steady income the show brought in. Everyone would feel sorry for the grieving widower, and then eventually they would forget her. She barely controlled the sobs caught in her chest.
Gregory picked up the phone, and had the driver drop them at a seedy strip joint downtown. He reminded her again, that she had better make the appointment or else.
The driver continued on to the hospital, and then parked in the lot to wait for her. He apparently had been give explicit instructions to see that she went home after the hospital, and didnt attempt to go anywhere else. The driver had also been told to pick her up in the morning, and drive her to the lawyers office. Gregory made sure that there was no way she would miss that appointment.
Jessica tried to pull herself into the collar of her jacket. Reporters were always lurking around the emergency room doors to LA General, hoping to catch a glimpse of an actor or actress that may be in the throes of an overdose or some other exciting bit of news. She didnt want to talk to any of them at the moment. It wouldnt be good for the show, and it wouldnt be good for her.
She managed to make it through a side door, and would have made it to the admissions desk without being spotted, except for the young boy in the waiting room, who saw her slip around the corner.
"Dad, Dad!" He screamed. "Dad, thats Kendra Knight. Dad thats really her."
Before she could take one more step, she could see several more heads turn in her direction, including the unmistakably bright orange halo that could only belong to Lavinia Jones, the star reporter for the biggest tabloid rag in the United States.
"Jessica!" Lavinia screeched at her. "Honey whats wrong, why are you here?"
Swirling over in her trademark cloak, Lavinia, for all her 411" tall frame seemed to overwhelm everything in her path. Jessica envisioned a small tornado with red hair every time she thought of this woman. Lavinia shrugged aside the young boy, and any others that had managed to approach Jessica. Jessica reached around her to hand back the boys autograph he had asked for. She was so tired, she was starting to almost feel faint. Lavinia was screeching at her from what seemed like a long tunnel. She shook her head to clear it, and attempted to focus her attention back on the mini-tornado in front of her.
"Lavinia, what do you want? Im here to visit a friend. I would really rather not be disturbed if you dont mind." Jessica said quietly, the weariness showing in her voice.
"Are you sure youre not checking in yourself darling? You look like ten miles of bad road." Lavinia giggled unbecomingly.
"We just finished shooting an action heavy episode, and Im tired. I need to visit my friend, get something to eat, shower and go to bed. After all tomorrow is another day." She turned, she hoped discreetly, and handed the desk clerk a note asking for Deborahs room number. She didnt want the tabloids to get any ideas of who was here, and why Jessica Ryan would make an appearance. She could see the headlines in her minds eye, screaming about the dangers and problems on the set.
"Well dear, you know, Im just doing my job. We all have jobs, Jessica, and mine is chasing you. So tell me, whos here that would bring you all the way downtown?" Lavinia tried to peek at the paper the clerk handed back to her.
"Nobody you need to know about Lavinia. Just a sick friend. Remember what thats like, to have friends? I want you to leave her alone. If you can do that, I can see if I can get you a ticket to the Peoples Choice Awards after party. I know youve been dying to get in there for years. Heck, you can even ride with me in my car." Jessica smiled her most ingratiating smile.
"Wowza! You sure know where to hit me dont you Jess? Well, tell you what. Ill just go back and sit down, and pretend I didnt even see you. Hows that sound?" Lavina dripped with excitement.
"Great, I appreciate it. Ill be in touch in a week or two about that party, you can bet on it." Jessica turned to head for Deborahs room. She made a mental bet with herself that she would see something about her visit to the hospital in some paper by close of business tomorrow. At least she wouldnt be taking Lavinia to any parties.
Deborahs room was lit up like a Christmas tree. Her large extended family had arrived, as well as her boyfriend and several of his friends. Jessica stood in the doorway for a moment, and debated whether or not she would even go in. Deborahs mom saw her, and hustled through the crowd to grab her.
"Dont you think youre going to get away that easy missy. I saw you looking like a deer in the headlights. Let me clear these hooligans out of here, so you can visit in some peace and quiet. Just give me a second." Momma was clearly in charge here.
"Thanks, I appreciate that. I need to eat soon, and get some sleep, but I didnt want to go without seeing how Deb is first." Jessica replied rather lamely she thought.
After all of the "hooligans" as Momma called them worked their way out into the hall, and down to the cafeteria, Momma closed the door, and left the two friends alone.
"Hey, how are you feeling?" Jessica asked.
"Mmm, like I got hit with a Mac Truck. Thanks for coming down though." Deb smiled through the pain killers.
"Not a problem. Wouldnt have missed it for the world. So have they figured out the extent of the damage yet?" Jessica braced herself for the worst.
Deborah reached for her hand. "Jess, Im okay. A few cracked ribs, and a bruised kidney. Thats the part that hurt the most, but they already have it under control. They said a few days rest, and then a couple of weeks of reduced work load, and Ill be fine. But Jessie, what about Gregorys goons?"
Jessica took a breath, and let it out slowly. "Deb, you might want to think about a different show. Gregory has taken out what promises to be a rather large insurance policy on me. He caught up to me on the way here, and pretty much threatened me. He plans to find a way to eliminate me. With the insurance money, he doesnt need me to bring home the paychecks anymore. You might get hurt again."
Deb shook her head. "No, there has to be a way to stop him, and I know that you can do it. Ill try to help any way I can. But you cant give up Jess. You cant let him win." Deborah was crying by now.
Adding her own tears to the mix, Jessica bowed her head for a moment. "Youre right. Gregory is a snake, and he isnt going to break me that easily. Ill come up with a plan. Somehow . . ."
Jessica stayed a while longer, and held Deborahs hand until she drifted off to sleep. As she was getting ready to leave, Momma stopped her, and hooking her arm through Jessicas elbow, lead her down the hallway and into a womens restroom.
"Baby, Debbie cares about you a lot, and shes worried about you. I want to help you any way I can, because youre a good girl, and you deserve it." She reached up to catch Jessies tears as they fell. "Your husband is no good. Baby, you need to get rid of him. He hurt my Debbie, and he gonna pay big time. In the mean time, I think we need to get you out of here safely. Big Leo, my son, he gonna take you to your house to get some things, and then you gonna stay the night with me. No big cars, no asshole husbands."
Momma reached into her big, somewhat bottomless purse, and removed a colorful scarf, a long red, calf length sweater. And some scruffy slippers. "Put these things on, and Big Leo will be waiting outside the door for you. Walk like you drank too much, and argue in your best old lady voice." She turned Jessica around, and smeared some bronzer on her skin to make her look older, and kind of weathered.
"You should be in the business, Momma. Youre really good at this." Jessica smiled at her.
"I am in the business baby. The business of protecting my family from dead beats like that newspaper harpy, and low-lifes like your husband. Nobody, and I mean nobody has a right to treat good people like that. And certainly not anyone who belongs to me. Baby you need to find yourself I nice sweet young girl to hold you at night and keep the evil spirits away. Dont raise that eyebrow at me young lady! I know a lot more about life than half the old birds on this planet. Momma sees dont you know? Momma sees all." She smiled broadly, and pulled the still shocked Jessica into her arms.
"You just go on, and Ill be seeing you a little later. Ill fix you up something to eat, and then you can get some real sleep. Deal?" Momma inquired.
"Deal." Jessica hugged her back fiercely.
Momma washed the bronzer from her hands, and then slipped out the door. Jessica adjusted the scarf to cover more of her face, and then taking a deep breath stepped outside the door. As promised Big Leo was waiting for her. Jessica was startled at the figure slumped against the wall waiting for her. He was 7 feet tall if he was an inch, and weighed at least 300 pounds. And that was not fat. He was built like a piece of industrial equipment. Jessica started to feel instantly better. If Jerald tried anything with Big Leo around, it would be the last stupid thing he ever did. Leo could crush him with one exceptionally large hand.
Big Leo reached for her as though she were an errant child. "Momma, why you gotta go and drink like that. Come on, Im takin you home. I got better things to do than bail your scrawny behind out of the hospital alla the time. Lets go you old bag." Leos bass voice boomed down the hallway, so that everyone within a square mile could hear him.
Jessica almost burst out laughing, he was just what the doctor ordered. She bent a little lower, and then struggling a little, whacked him on the arm with the sleeve of her sweater, and then shuffled down the hall ahead of him, mumbling to herself. He followed along dutifully, grimacing like a put out son who is used to that kind of behavior from his mother.
The two of them made the doors, when Jessica almost froze in her steps. A cab had pulled up in front of the door to the ER, and Gregory and Jerald were stepping out onto the sidewalk. Big Leo grabbed her by the shoulder of her sweater, and led her away. He knew who Jerald and Gregory were. He had been on the set with his mother to visit his sister before, and they had been there. At the risk of making his mother angry, he almost stopped and crushed them both right there in the parking lot. But she made it clear that he was just supposed to see to Jessies safety, and worry about those two later.
Gregory stopped at the limousine to make sure that Jessica was still inside, and then the two of them strolled through the doors like they owned the place. Gregory walked up to the counter, and after banging on the counter several times finally got the attention of the clerk. Even Lavinia, who was always hot for a story steered clear of Gregory. As far as she was concerned, the man was psychotic. The clerk gave them the information they wanted, and then just to be sure, she called security. She could smell trouble on those two, and she wasnt going to let that happen in her hospital.
They approached Deborahs room, and Gregory rudely kicked the door open. Momma was alone with her daughter, holding her hand while she slept. She turned a fierce glare in his direction, mentally willing him to die where he stood.
"Whats the matter old woman, making too much noise for you?" Gregory sneered at her.
"Bah, you excuse for a human being. You injured my daughter. I should have you killed where you stand." She stood up, and turned to face him directly. He must have felt the energy coming from her, because he stepped back a pace or two fear showing plainly in his eyes.
"I didnt do nothing. It was an accident. I just came to see how she was doing, and to thank her for saving my wifes life." His tone had changed dramatically, tinged with an air of politeness.
"You cant lie to Momma piglet. I will find the truth, and then you pay. Everyone must pay their debt, and yours grows daily. Be careful young man. You dont know who you are messing with. Momma always gets respect. You wait, you see." She smiled a grim vipers smile.
"Really, I have no idea what you are talking about." Gregory actually sounded hurt. "Well, I am glad to see that she will be okay, now have you seen my wife Jessica. Jessica Ryan? We came to escort her home, shes had a long day." Gregory pouted self-righteously.
"Shes in the ladies room, and then will see the doctor. Something about production schedules. She ask me to tell the driver, or I guess you now, that she be out in about 30 minutes, to wait for her in the car." Momma smiled most graciously.
"Well, thank you. My associate and I will do just that. If she returns here, let her know we are waiting for her." They both turned, and exited the room. This time much quieter than when they arrived.
After they were gone, Deborah opened her eyes slightly. "Momma, I love you."
"Me too baby, I love you too. Now sleep. Sleep well." Momma whispered back to her beloved daughter.
Big Leo helped Jessica into the front seat of his pick-up truck, and then got in and started it up. "Momma says I should take you to your house to get some things. Is there anybody you should maybe call?" He asked politely.
Jessica found herself instantly liking this mountain of a man. "Yeah, thanks Leo. I appreciate it. Ill call my brother, and then the housekeeper. If I can get Carla to pack me some things, then we should be able to dash in and dash out before Gregory catches up to me." Leo nodded his approval, and then put the truck into gear, and pulled away from the curb.
Jessica dialed Michaels cell phone first. The phone rang 3 or 4 times, and Jessica started to get nervous. Finally Michael answered, definitely sleep slurring his words. "Yeah, speak."
"Michael its me, Jess. Michael this is important, you need to wake up and pay attention." Jessica could hear Stevens equally sleepy voice in the background.
Michael covered the receiver clumsily, and told Steven who it was. Jessica could tell that both men were now completely awake. "Whats wrong? Are you okay? Should I come and get you? Jess?"
"Mike, Im okay for now. Im in a pick-up truck heading for my house. Im in good hands, but I need to stay out of sight for at least tonight. I am going to get a few things, and then stay at a friends house tonight. Ill call you again in the morning." Jessica found herself smiling at her knight in size 54 armor again.
"Jessica what happened? Tell! Steven and I can come and get you. You can stay here with us. Im sure Kate wont mind. Matter of fact, Im positive Kate wont mind. Talk to me!" Jessica could hear the panic in his voice.
Quietly she recapped the events of the day, ending with her current adventure. "So you see Michael. I dont want to endanger any of you. I dont want Gregory anywhere near you or Kate and Steven. Just tell Kate that I will make our lunch date tomorrow. Other than that, lay low. Which by the way I see, or rather hear that you are already well on your way. Im happy for you Michael. Just please, stay safe. If he hurts you, I wont be able to handle it. Promise?"
Michael let out his breath in a huff. "Okay, for now anyway. But I dont like this. I want to be with you, and take care of you. I dont want you out there by yourself."
"Trust me Michael. Right now, I am not alone. However, I feel that the less you know the better. Just believe me when I tell you that tonight Ill be safe. Okay?" Jessica sighed.
"Yeah, okay, but call me tomorrow. If I dont hear from you by ten, then Im coming after you. Later!" Michael hung up and tossed the phone in the direction of his clothes.
"Are you okay?" Steven asked.
Michael turned and laid his head on Stevens shoulder. "Yeah, but Jessies in major danger. She wont let me help her, just wants me to lay low. She told me to tell Kate she would be here for lunch tomorrow though. I think I might stick around and wait for her. I want to find out what this is all about."
Steven gave him a squeeze, and then nodded. "Not a problem. She could have come here, Kate would have loved it." He smiled a sly grin in the dark.
"Boy, dont I know it. All I have to do is smile and wink at her, and then say Jessies name, and she blushes like a house on fire. Wouldnt that be a hoot, if those two got together? Even Jess lets her guard down around Katie. I dont think Ive seen her like this in a long, long time. Well, all we can do is wait, I guess." Michael sighed.
They both closed their eyes, and snuggled down for some much needed sleep.
Michaels last thought was for his sister. He only hoped that somehow they could resolve all of this before she got hurt, or even worse lost her life. She deserved some happiness in her life, and he wanted to make sure she had that chance.
Big Leo nudged Jessica with his elbow. She hadnt realized that she had dozed off after she had called Carla her housekeeper. Carla was waiting at the door, with her duffle bag packed, and a small suit bag with her business attire hung neatly. Leo picked up both bags, and then carried them out to the truck. Carla ran back into the house, and then returned with a medium sized box held together with a ribbon. Jessica immediately recognized it as the box that contained letters from her mother, and other childhood mementos.
"Thank you Carla. I would have forgotten that box. Its probably the only thing in there that really means anything to me." Jessica was saddened at the thought.
"Is okay Ms. Jessica. Carla es looking out for you. I pack-ed some of your jewelry as well. No need for that, how you say, Diablo, Senor Gregory to have these things. Por favor chica. Take care. I go now, and stay at my casa. No want to be here when the Diablo comes. He dangerous bad hombre." Carla gave her a quick hug, and then turned to close up the house. She wanted to be far away when the Devil arrived. Gregory was well known for his temper tantrums, and she had no desire to be present when the moron exploded.
Jessica, still amazed at how helpful everyone was being, jumped into the truck with Leo, and the two took off for Mommas house. About ten miles down the hill from her home, they were approaching the freeway, when they saw her limo come screeching off on the opposite ramp, and go speeding up towards her house. Without being asked to, Leo pulled into the emergency lane, and waited for a moment or two. With a sigh of relief, Jessica noticed Carla in her little green Metro pass them as she too entered the freeway. Gregory would find an empty house, and no trace of her whereabouts. Fortunately, he never got involved with the household staff, so he wouldnt even know how to reach Carla to find out if she had seen Jessica.
Leo nodded his approval at Jessicas sigh of relief, and the two merged onto the freeway, and disappeared into the Los Angeles haze. About the time that they arrived at Mommas quiet rural home, Gregory was in the full throes of an all out tantrum. He had broken several vases, and lamps, scattering the garbage over the better part of the living room floor. Jerald stood back in a corner hoping to be unnoticed. He was even slightly afraid of the insanity spilling forth from Gregorys mouth.
In the meantime, Momma was feeding her special guest a huge supper of the best food Jessica had ever tasted. Her hostess had already taken possession of her cell phone. She simply turned it off. It seemed as though she had stepped into another time frame all together. After her meal, Momma showed her to a private room, with its own bath. She took a long hot shower, and then dressing in a pair of flannel pajamas that Momma had laid out for her, slipped between the sheets of what turned out to be an incredibly comfortable bed.
Momma came by once more before Jessica drifted off to sleep. She correctly guessed that Jessie was probably having trouble sleeping. Momma brought her a large steaming mug of herb tea, and then sat beside her and stroked her hair while she closed her eyes. Jessicas last conscious thought was of her lunch with Kate tomorrow, and how much she wished she was here with her.
As Jessica was having these quiet thoughts, Kate awoke with a start. For some reason she had a feeling that someone was in terrible trouble, and she needed to be with them. She wouldnt know until the next morning how close to reality her dreams had taken her.
Continued...Chapters 5 to 7
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