Read Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors Online

Authors: Alex Ames

Tags: #Mystery: Cozy - Jewelry Creator - Cat Burglar - Hollywood

Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors (2 page)

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
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CHAPTER TWO

Cat, Waiting

The lights of the party festivities were glowing bright into the night, a combination of tasteful stringed decorations in the garden, disco party strobes, and the moving spotlights of the yellow-press media hounds running around with sound technicians and camera men to capture content for their dailies, weeklies, blogs, and YouTube channels.
 

Like an anthill of creative superpower
, he mused. Fowler Wynn had been sitting in the same position for about two hours now, not even shifting. A man at ease with the situation, a man used to waiting, a man used to preying and stalking. He was a large, thin man with a pencil mustache that had gone out of fashion ages ago, but somehow Fowler felt out of fashion. And out of water, a feeling he always had when he was out of England and a feeling he especially had when he was in Los Angeles.

“You know the original song behind this rap-line? Englishman in New York?” Fowler asked without moving his eyes from the party estate. “Story of my life.”
 

“I guess. You drink coffee, I drink tea, my dear, or something?” His companion, Peter Jamison, said from the driver seat of the unmarked, unobtrusive SUV parked close to the Swan Collins estate. Peter stretched again, probably for the four-hundredth time. He was an African-American and radiated the strength of an eager sportsman but was held back by temporary immovability. “Eighties, isn’t it? Why do you ask? Want some tea?”

“No, thank you.” Fowler didn’t offer any explanation for his strange question and continued to watch, but Peter wasn’t offended, at least not anymore. After a week of working with Fowler Wynn, he had seen his share of strange behavior in the man. And the sudden questions, usually leading nowhere, were probably the most harmless behavior so far. Jamison’s boss had made one thing unmistakably clear: Fowler Wynn was “the man”! Drive him around; do everything he says. He is always right; he can’t do wrong. His hunches are worth millions, and you don’t risk millions.

Suddenly some headlights lit the car from behind, moving toward the entry of the Swan Collins estate. There were about ten cars, some unmarked, some LAPD patrol cars without lights or sirens, and two small transporters. They simply turned at the entry to the estate, and the last car pulled over and effectively blocked the entryway; two cops got out and took position. One officer faced outward toward the street—and toward the surprised, non-invited media people. They let no one in. The other officer stayed on his side of the car and guarded the interior. He let no one out.

Peter Jamison had enough mojo and poker experience not to make an ass of himself by asking Fowler the obvious question.

“Showtime,” he bluffed instead.

And sure enough, this remark earned him a raised eyebrow and a one-second glance from Fowler.

“Showtime, indeed,” Fowler concurred, a small smile around his mouth.

CHAPTER THREE

A Sparkling Predicament

I stared at my local pizza baker for about twenty seconds, still computing the illogical situation—from pizza baker to Hollywood star in twelve hours—and couldn’t find anything to say. He finally helped me out by breaking into a large, dazzling grin as he took me by the arm. “It is time we refill your daiquiri so we can exchange our ‘from Redondo to Hollywood in a day’ stories. I never made your store for a celebrity hang-out.” He steered me toward the nearest bar, somewhere four rooms to the right.

“Well, same goes for me regarding your pizza dough qualifications,” I said, still slightly confused.

With drinks in our hands, we found a less occupied and less noisy part of the house and settled down on a comfortable sofa. “So, how is the dough business coming along?” I asked, opening the conversation.

He looked playfully offended. “Oh, cut me some slack. I am an actor, but I have to make a living somehow. The pizza job buys the bread, excuse the lame pun, in order to survive LA until I land my next role.”

“But what a coincidence that my shop assistant ordered pizza a mere twelve hours ago, hand delivered by yourself … and here we meet again at Swan Collins’ after-show party.” I shook my head, smiling at him.
 

“How impolite. I know your name, but you wouldn’t know mine.”

“How would you know my name?”

“It is printed on your store in big letters: Moonstone.”

“Doh,” I said.

“My name is Rip. Rip Delaware.”

I rolled my eyes. “That must be about the worst stage name ever invented. Your seventy-year-old agent propose that one?”

Rip looked offended. “That is my real name. It’s even on my driver’s license. Delaware is a perfectly normal American name, same as Rip. But I agree, it sounds like a stage name. Story of my actor’s life.”

“Who are you with?” I asked him, sparing a secret glance at his ring finger to see if he’d pass the level two test.

“Jeannie Anthony, the TV actress?” Rip said, and I nodded in recognition. “I had a walk-on part in last season’s finale. We somehow hit it off, and she invited me for the party.” I raised a mocking eyebrow at him, and he was quick to add, “We are friends, just friends, you know?” We both had to smile at such a lame excuse.

Suddenly, all music stopped at once. After a second of aural adaptation, all conversation died, too, and the silence felt like a big bang. It couldn’t be an outage; the lights were still working. Subdued murmurs broke out among the groups; everyone was looking over others’ heads to check out what was wrong. The two of us shrugged at each other and craned our necks, imitating the rest of the party guests.
 

A few moments later, there came a noise from the music PA system, a male throat clearing. “Ahem, this on now? Okay. Ladies and gentlemen, excuse me. May I have your full attention, please? My name is Lieutenant Lucas Graves from the Beverly Hills Police Department. This is not a test nor a movie nor a hoax. Together with the DEA, we are conducting a raid on this party. We were informed that there are drugs on this premise, and we were forced to act. I know this comes as an inconvenience…,” boos and shrill whistles from the party guests underlined that fact, “…but we ask you all to come down to the large catering tent in the garden where you had dinner. We will ID you, take a blood sample, and conduct a quick search. No need to panic. There’s no way out, as we surrounded the whole estate. No need to run to the nearest toilet to flush away incriminating evidence; all the restrooms are already covered by DEA personnel. Should you have excessive need to use a facility, an officer will accompany you. Thank you for your cooperation.” Lieutenant Graves tried a brave, final, soothing remark that bombed badly: “Non-alcoholic refreshments will be served.”

My new party companion and I looked at each other. “You don’t happen to have an ounce of coke stored in your purse, do you?” he asked, eying my purse.
 

“What is that white residue under you left nostril?” I challenged him, and Rip actually looked unsure for a second and started rubbing his nose with his arm. We started to laugh and made our way to the terrace, around the big pool and toward the tent, where we’d had dinner earlier on.

“A raid, wow! Half of last year’s box office blockbuster actors are here. Imagine being involved in a drug raid! The entertainment industry will have a new legend. Did you notice any ‘excessive’ drug consumption?”

“It’s probably the new mayor’s doing, cracking down on the East and hill quarters alike. Takes some mojo to do it at this party, though.” Rip looked around doubtfully at the steady stream of celebrities and industry people in expensive clothes and jewelry in more or less sober and joyful conditions. “I noticed a lot of the bedrooms and bathrooms were occupied—and not by individuals. If you waited and listened, you could actually hear many people inside. Could be that they had a few lines in there.”

“What a way to end such a great party,” I commented.

We followed the others and walked into the large tent that was half the size of a football field and offered rows and rows of round dinner tables and backless benches, now filling up again. The catering staff had removed the decorations and dining utensils, so the space had the feel of a monastery. A group of uniformed police officers pointed us toward the middle of the tent space. A steady, low noise level of murmuring reminded me of a beehive. I saw Nicole sitting together with the Newmarks, laughing at the situation, and I walked over

“Isn’t that something, a drug raid?” Nicole said after quick introductions with handshakes and mutual admirations. She was clearly enjoying the commotion.
 

“This feels like a class trip,” I replied.
 

“As long as I will be invited to the ten-year reunion,” she replied, gave Rip a quick sexual look-over.
 

An officer came along and shooed us toward an empty table. “No groups, please. Please be seated. “

At the far end of the tent, the police had canvassed off an area for processing. The stations were hidden behind makeshift curtains, formerly used to conceal the food preparations. DEA agents with their letters in bright yellow on the back of their black windbreakers handled lab equipment while other police personnel picked up guests and led them to the different compartments. Whatever was going down here, it was not a spontaneous thing but well-prepared.

Our host Swan Collins made the rounds among her guests, explaining the situation and apologizing for the inconvenience. She stepped up to our table and gave us all a collective nod before confirming some of the rumors. “Yes, they have found some drugs in the bathrooms—coke, weed, and ecstasy pills, I heard. My house, the pharmacy! A terrible thing, but I beg you to support the officers.” We all were sympathetic to her and nodded dutifully. Swan thanked us all and walked over to the next table, where she repeated her spiel.

I was just starting to comment on her poise and strength in this harrowing situation when we heard an ear-splitting scream some table rows to the left. “My jewels, my jewels, oh, my jewels!” A small commotion broke out, and some officers hurried over to clear up the matter. We craned our necks again.

“It’s Pretty McAllister,” Rip said excitedly. “She looks devastated … and naked around her neck.”

“Jesus, she had a Van Winkel necklace on her,” I said, putting my hands over my mouth. “I noticed it when she was presenting the ‘original script’ Oscar tonight. A stunning piece, must be worth a heck of a lot of money.”

“First drugs, now a necklace, what’s next? A stabbed actor in the library? This is beginning to feel like a scene from an Agatha Christie movie,” Rip complained.

When the commotion cleared, Pretty McAllister, the famous TV-star-turned-movie-actress, twenty-five years, blonde and blue-eyed was crying at her seat with her hands over her face. Her current boyfriend, John Berg, ex-hubby of Nicole Berg, was holding her. The life of the rich and famous was a soap opera itself.

Minutes later, the loudspeaker voice rose again. “Hem. This is Officer Graver again. It seems that a guest has been robbed of her diamond necklace. The value is over one million dollars, so we consider this a very serious issue.” A mix of low murmurs, loud laughs, and some shrieks of jewelry-minded ladies erupted. “We will search each one of you anyway, so the necklace should turn up if one of you is actually the thief. Mrs. McAllister is here to identify the piece on the spot.” Officer Graves was standing at the narrow end of the tent on the small stage that had held the dinner jazz band earlier on. “Anyone willing to surrender the necklace immediately? It is too big to swallow!” he asked in another bombed attempt at humor. No volunteers.

 
“This could be a long night,” Rip said, turning around on our bench and leaning against the table. “I wonder if they will reopen the bar.” The proceedings went steady but slowly—table by table, person by person, officers led the guests toward the search and analysis area.

Our neighbor, a famous rock band singer, inquired, “I wonder if we’re allowed to smoke in here?”
 

We shrugged and agreed aloud: “Could it get much worse?”
 

BOOK: Alex Ames - Calendar Moonstone 02 - Brilliant Actors
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