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By Kimberly K. Fox
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Kimberly K. Fox
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe screen flickered eerily, light bouncing and moving in the darkened theater. He was the only one there for the early matinee, which suited him just fine. He slunk his thin shoulders down into his dark leather coat, slitted eyes watching the action on the screen. Watching her.
Her incredibly beautiful face lighted up the screen. Luscious thick blue-black hair fell around sultry shoulders as she saucily traded quips with her leading man. He clenched his teeth, shoving his fists down into his lap, breath hissing in sharply. He could not stand to see her flirting with another man, even though he was well aware it was acting. He seethed, his predatory eyes watching her every movement.
The woman on the screen turned to the man, her violet-blue eyes coquettish. "We really should dress for dinner, Jeff. We have plenty of time for that later, you know."
The actor grabbed her, hauling her against his chest, slowly kissing her lush lips.
The man seated in the theater watched this action and slowly crushed his popcorn box, mashing it into a twisted mass.
The bitch! Some day she would pay. She would be his, his slave and she would do whatever he wanted. He grinned wolfishly. Soon. Very soon.
* * *
Adrianna Adams hurried home through the thick Los Angeles traffic. She had tried to leave the studio early enough to beat the rush-hour hassle but it hadn't happened. She'd needed to stay behind for an hour or so going over her scenes with her director, Joel. Finally she headed out of the studio around five, right at the height of rush hour. She cursed inwardly, weaving her silver BMW through the interstate traffic, finally turning off at the exit that would lead to her exclusive mansion in Bel Air.
Silently she considered her new flick and her current role. Now that she was an established actress, her roles were wide and varied. Her talent and fantastic looks had made her a household name in fewer than five years. It had been hard at first, clawing her way up the Hollywood cutthroat ladder. She'd had many run-ins with producers and directors who expected her to warm their beds, but she'd stuck to her principles and insisted she be hired for her talent. Finally she found an excellent agent who was willing to help her negotiate the quagmire of Hollywoood and get better parts. One led to another, and within a few years she was starring in her first film. She was an instant smash. Men were infatuated with the beautiful actress, but she had an honest, appealing quality that women warmed up to as well.
She made two, sometimes three films a year if she could fit them into her schedule. Adrianna worked constantly, putting her private life on the back burner. She realized at twenty-eight she was still young enough to have many productive years ahead in the film industry, but she also knew fame was elusive and ephemeral and she wanted to work as long and hard as she could. Besides, there was no man in her life and hadn't been for awhile. Not since Jared, and she winced when she thought of him. It was a painful memory for her.
Dismissing her thoughts, Adrianna pulled up to the elaborate wrought-iron gates guarding her estate and clicked a button to open them. She'd recently had a sophisticated security system installed because she'd been getting a spate of hate mail lately that her assistant, Stella, had brought to her attention. Stella was alarmed by the letters and showed them to Adrianna. Usually she just tossed hokey threatening letters aside, but these had been bizarre and unsettling. Stella warned her to be careful. A young actress had been killed just last year by a stalker, and she was concerned for Adrianna.
Adrianna had sighed in exasperation. "Stella, really. Don't worry! These cranks are out there night and day. If I let them restrict my life, I'd never leave my house. I'll be fine. And don't you dare tell my father about this," she warned Stella sternly.
Stella had agreed reluctantly and Addie realized if Stella did tell Governor Adams, he would insist she have a bodyguard, and Adrianna loathed the very thought. Adrianna was a free spirit, coming and going as she pleased. A bodyguard would restrict her lifestyle.
Adrianna emerged from her vehicle, parking in the huge garage. She grabbed her script and briefcase from the back and headed into the spacious kitchen through the back door of the mansion.
Shirley, the cook/maid Adrianna employed on a part-time basis was busily preparing dinner. Most of the time she wasn't around to need anyone to worry about her.
When Adrianna filmed in LA, she stayed in her elaborate mansion while Shirley took care of the household chores and supervised the staff that left promptly at six each evening. There were several downstairs maids, a landscaper, pool maintenance people, and others. Adrianna wasn't sure who Stella had employed here to make her comfortable. She just insisted that they all be gone each evening so that she could have solitude and privacy. So far, this arrangement worked out just fine.
"Hello, Adrianna. Shrimp creole served with rice tonight, one of your favorites."
Shirley was a plump woman with red hair, freckles, and warm brown eyes. She fussed over Adrianna like a mother hen.
Adrianna strode to the counter, glancing down at Shirley as she leaned her case against the counter. Her violet-blue eyes were warm and friendly. "Thanks, Shirley. That sounds wonderful! I'm going upstairs to change into something comfortable. Then I gotta hit the script."
Shirley eyed her uneasily as she stirred rice at the built-in island stove. "Have you seen the news yet, Miss Adrianna?" she asked nervously.
"No. Why?" Adrianna arched a black brow, grabbing an apple from the fruit bowl. Chomping on it, she eyed Shirley inquisitively.
"They still haven't caught the man who was stalking that actress. And they found another one, too. Over Orange County way. A little-known actress, somebody named Jennifer Creely. Found her strangled. In her home," she finished in a subdued voice.
Adrianna was startled. As busy as she was filming her current movie, she hadn't paid much attention to local news and events. Joel informed her that they were just about wrapped with the flick. It was mid-May and he was predicting they would be through by around the first of June, so Adrianna had been working long, grueling hours to get the flick done.
Adrianna's eyes moved to the portable TV that Shirley had playing low on one of the long counters. "No, Shirley. I hadn't heard. To be honest, I haven't seen a newscast in ages."
"Everybody's very nervous, they are." Brown eyes flicked back and forth.
Adrianna sighed. No doubt her father had heard this latest news and would be calling her again, bugging her to hire a bodyguard. Adrianna had flatly refused in the past and this latest news did not change her mind.
"I'm going up to change. Be right down for dinner."
Flipping her bag over her shoulder, she left the large kitchen.
Shirley shook her head sorrowfully and returned to her cooking. "Poor girl."
It was unclear which woman she extended her sympathy toward.
* * *
After everyone left for the evening, Adrianna headed to her cozy study to pour over her lines for her scenes tomorrow. Her study was romantically furnished: big wing chairs with comfy pillows and overstuffed ottomans to place her feet on, lovely crystal lamps and a small marble white fireplace. Gorgeous bouquets of flowers cut by her gardener adorned the rooms of the mansion. Tonight Adrianna ignored the gracious interior as she snuggled back into her deep red velvet wing chair, propping stocking feet up on the matching lush ottoman. Sighing, she spread her script across her lap, the crystal lamp on the table beside her providing adequate light. The sun still shined brightly through the lace sheers but Adrianna always used a reading light, not wanting to chance ruining her eyes.
Shrilly her cell rang on the lamp table, startling Addie. She really needed to study her script. It was probably Stella.
She was right. "Adrianna!"
"Yes, it's me," she murmured.
"Thank God, you're home. I had a coronary after seeing the news! Have you heard the news?" she asked breathlessly.
"Yes, if you're referring to the actress murdered. Shirley informed me as soon as I stepped through the door."
"Adrianna, I'm really worried about you with all of this craziness going on. Especially after the letters...." She trailed off.
Adrianna sighed deeply. "Really, Stella. You needn't worry. I took your advice and got a top-of-the line security system installed. Believe me, if anyone comes around there will be enough bells and whistles to wake up half of LA."
Stella was exasperated. "Adrianna, I still think you're taking a bit of a chance. Why won't you listen to your father and hire a bodyguard? Just for the evenings. You know, when you're most vulnerable."
"I really don't think this nutcase is going to come after me. I get threatening letters frequently, although I must admit these were more bizarre than most."
"That's my point exactly. They are more bizarre and I worry about you. There's a crazy running around in LA and he's targeting actresses. If you hired somebody, if you had some protection, maybe he would think twice about targeting you."
"Stella, why do you think I'm a target?" Adrianna asked in exasperation.
"Why? Because of the letters! He made it quite clear that he's a threat to you- and there was a weirdness to the prose, too. Almost an unhinged quality...."
"I really wish you would quit worrying about me. Most of the time, I'm on a movie set. There's no way some loony could know all my moves. Besides, my estate is private and secluded, and my address is unknown to the general population. I'll be fine." She tried to soothe her assistant and friend.
"He can still find you. There are ways to find out things like that with enough research and determination. I'm not trying to frighten you. I just want you- I just want you to be safe."
"Stella, I am safe. And I really need to study my lines for tomorrow. I'll talk to you soon. Don't worry." She hung up abruptly before Stella could go into another protective tirade.
She flipped the pages of her script open, immersing herself in the lines.
* * *
The man stopped his nondescript brown sedan at the entrance of the wrought iron gates, peering through the black curlicues at the elaborate house located at the end of the drive.
He had found her. At last he had found her house. She probably assumed she was safe from him, but she wasn't. Oh no, she wasn't. He grinned slyly, baring his teeth.
* * *
The busy precinct of the LAPD hummed with activity, people shouting, talking to each other, gesturing. Prisoners were being led back to cells and booked. Telephones rang incessantly. Police officers lounged around, drinking coffee and talking to cronies as others worked harried at their desks, trying to catch up on endless paperwork.
Martin Cunningham wound through this confusion to reach Dane's office, finally reaching the glass door with the gold letters that read-"Dane O'Connor, Detective, Ninth Precinct." Martin opened the door without knocking. He and Dane were partners and friends, having worked together on the squad for three years. They were close friends even though they didn't have much in common except the police work. Martin was a forty-five-year old family man with several children, one of whom would be entering college next year, and Martin busted his hump here everyday so the kid would have more chances in life than he did. Martin was a good cop, dedicated to his job and very fair.
These were qualities Dane also had and he admired them in Martin. Dane O'Connor was a single guy, constantly teased by the entire force because of his too-handsome face. Everyone always said he was wasting his time locking up the baddies, that he should be making movies in this town and collecting large fees for doing so. Dane ignored such talk. He was a dedicated cop, fiercely fighting injustice and violence in the world and determined to do his bit, lock up the nuts and protect the good citizens of the world. He found that to be a far more admirable calling than posing in front of a camera. Besides, all he had ever wanted was to be a cop and he loved his job. The fact that he was single left him plenty of time to devote his energy to the LAPD, and he had risen rapidly through the ranks. He was eleven years Martin's junior and was his supervisor, something he and Martin carefully ignored. Martin did his job superbly and needed only mild supervision from Dane. They were partners, buddies and each would lay down his life for the other. It was the only kind of partnership to have.
Now Martin burst into Dane's office, his face carefully blank. "Better saddle up, Dane. We got another one."
Dane looked up at Martin's sober face, his emerald-green eyes stunned. "Ah, shit!" he muttered, grabbing his blazer off of the back of his chair, following Martin hurriedly out of his office.
* * *
Dane and Martin drove to the scene of the crime in Dane's unmarked squad car. Neither spoke for the moment, contemplating the case they had been working on for more than a year.
Actresses were being stalked in town, and there had been three murders, one the previous summer, one last fall, and one just last week. Through the winter months the perpetrator had gone to ground, but now with the advent of spring it seemed he was striking again. The actresses had been beautiful brunettes, strangled in their apartments, despite the fact one was a successful actress and had an elaborate security system. The nutcase committing the crimes seemed to be adept at getting around security systems and left the crime scenes meticulously clean. There weren't even any fibers or hair left at the scenes, which Dane found hard to believe. What did the perp do, vacuum after murdering? He fumed, driving efficiently through the congested morning LA traffic, heading toward El Cino Avenue, which would take them to Velaquez, where the victim had lived in a condo.
Martin glanced over at his partner, blinking against the harsh morning sunlight. Already LA was hot and steamy. Dane wore dark sunglasses, his black hair tumbling over his brow and brushing the collar of his cream sport coat. Dane usually wore faded jeans, a white shirt, and some type of blazer. Martin was more conservative in his dress, always wearing a suit and tie. Martin smiled as he observed his handsome partner.
"So, how was dinner with Camille last night?" Martin asked nonchalantly.
Dane grimaced slightly, not bothering to turn to Martin, keeping his eyes on the traffic. "Dinner was fine, Martin. Why?"
Martin shrugged, looking out his passenger window, trying to be cool and nonchalant. "Just wondered. You been dating her for awhile. Things serious yet?" Martin had tried to match Dane up with females in the past. Martin was happily married and wanted the same for his buddy and partner, but Dane remained elusive and available.
Camille Paglia was a tall, leggy, blonde prosecutor Dane had met through work. He'd been dating her for about three months, when he could fit time in to see her, that is.
"Martin, things aren't serious yet. Camille is busy with her career and so am I. Why do you keep trying to set me up anyway? Do you want everyone to be married and miserable like you?" Dane joked. Dane had the highest regard for Martin's wife, Maggie.
Martin guffawed at this remark. "If I were any more miserable, hell-I'd have to file for divorce!"
Dane smiled, turning onto Velaquez, cruising up to the building surrounded with yellow crime tape. He pulled up next to various police cruisers and medical personnel that had already arrived on the scene.
"Enough about my personal life, buddy. Let's go work."
The two men emerged from the vehicle, and one of the medical personnel immediately cornered Dane. "Hope you're prepared, Daneboy. It ain't pretty in there!"
Dane arched a black brow, removing his dark glasses, his green eyes sober. "Pretty? Murder is never pretty, Peterson. You should know that by now."
Without another word, Martin and Dane entered the condo building to examine the crime scene.
* * *
The actress was pretty, probably in her mid-to late thirties, brown hair tangled over her face. She looked like a limp rag doll, sprawled on the living room floor before the couch. There were signs of a slight struggle and Dane was hopeful they would get some evidence. Dane was pretty sure they were dealing with the same perp and carefully examined the crime scene for clues.
One of the forensic personnel joined Dane, gazing down at the woman. "Name is Claire Monroe. Had some bit parts in television series and TV commercials. Was trying for a part in a soap. Recently broke up with her boyfriend. We're checking him out, but from what was gathered from neighbors and friends, they had a pretty good relationship. Checked her nails, they're clean. Also, the entire crime scene is a duplicate of the others. We're checkin', but so far, no hair samples, no dirt, no prints, no nothin'. And yes, I've used the infra-red spray." He turned away to continue his examination of the scene and Dane scowled in disgust.
Excerpted from SHATTERED STAR by Kimberly K. Fox Copyright © 2012 by Kimberly K. Fox. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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