The next day was our first full day of blocking and rehearsal, working through our interior scenes. Me and Small Steve were moving furniture into place in Dale's "office" when Elspeth and Eddie came skipping in, hand in hand. They both had anxious looks on their faces.
"Lenny, can we talk to you for a minute?" asked Elspeth.
"Sure, what's up?"
"Someplace more private," said Eddie, gesturing towards the door. I followed them out.
Eddie said, "Listen, umm.... Do you have any objections to your performers dating each other?"
I smiled. "Be damn hypocritical of me if I did. After all, this is where I met my wife. Why?"
"Eddie and I are seeing each other now," said Elspeth. "We promise it won't interfere with work or shooting."
"So long as you're not bugged by still doing scenes with other people, then more power to you," I said. "How did this come about?"
Elspeth giggled, "We went out to dinner last week to go over our scenes together, and we ended up rehearsing back at Eddie's place. You know, the scene where he's handcuffed to a chair? We sort of got into it."
"Well congratulations, you two. Like I said, so long as it doesn't interfere with shooting, then you do what's right."
"See?" Elspeth said to Eddie. "I told you there was nothing to worry about."
"I was just concerned there would be friction somehow," said Eddie.
"I watch my wife fuck other men all the time, including you, Eddie," I pointed out. "That's just how this business is. If anything, scenes featuring the two of you will go that much smoother, since you'll have had practice. My only request is that if there's friction between you two, you leave it at the door, and be professional while on the sound stages or on scenes. And save some of your energy for the cameras."
"No problem," they said in unison.
"Actually, I'm a little surprised, about a couple things. Both of them concern you, Elspeth. I thought you had a boyfriend."
She sighed. "We'd been on the outs for a while. He wanted me to quit working, even though it's what I was doing when we met. He suddenly decided that he didn't like sharing me. I tried explaining to him that it's only performance but he didn't want to hear it. We split permanently the same week we got the new scripts."
"And didn't you think that Eddie was, um, a bit too big?"
Eddie and Elspeth smiled at each other. "We've had a lot of fun finding our limits," she said. "No way can he fit all the way in me, but he stops when I'm maxed out. We're working well together."
Just then Bekka came into the hallway. "I have some news," I told her.
"Elspeth and Eddie are dating," she said.
"How'd you know?" I asked.
"Well, duh. They've been giving each other moony eyes for the last couple weeks, they always sit together during read-through, and they always take off for lunch together. It's obvious."
"I was just telling them Inana Productions has no objections to performers dating each other. Who knows, it could make things go a lot smoother when filming fuck scenes."
Eddie said, "We were just nervous that it would make things uncomfortable for other people."
"Just so long as you're not sucking face in the hallways all the time, things should be just fine," I said.
"We'll be professional and discreet," said Elspeth.
"And we'll keep the face-sucking to a minimum," said Eddie.
I said, "Well.... Congratulations, you two. I hope you have a lot of good times together, and make each other happy. Now then, we're blocking Bekka and Dale's stuff first in their office, then we move on to you two in the interview room. The street scenes are being worked out in front of the mansion, and...."
At the end of the day Bekka and I went to Evelyn's for dinner, then to the new house. We sat on the edge of the hot tub and watched a surfer repeatedly biff it on the way in. We were due for another spectacular sunset.
"Five and a half more weeks and we can move in," I commented.
"I can't wait," Bekka said. "Living in the mansion hasn't been the drag I was afraid it would be, but I miss my privacy. I feel like we've been on stage all this time."
"Well, people have adjusted to seeing me wandering around in my boxers in the morning, raiding the downstairs fridge for Mountain Dew."
Bekka lit a cigarette. "What I won't miss is Small Steve coming up to the penthouse in the mornings with a litany of questions for you. You're good about getting into your office by nine or so, is anything so important that it can't wait for forty minutes?"
I was about to answer her when I heard footsteps. They sounded like they were coming from behind, but also from above. I swiveled my head in the direction of the sound. Bekka and I both looked up towards the second floor.
Looking down at us was a muscular guy wearing a cheap kid's Halloween mask. What also attracted our attention was the shotgun he had trained on us, pointed between us, counting on the spray of the shot to take us both out if need be. He had the drop. We kept looking his direction, waiting for him to make introductions. He finally did.
"You must be Lenny and Bekka," he said, swinging the shotgun gently.
"That's us," I said, "and you are?"
"That's not important. Lenny, you disobeyed my request to not look into the death of Meredith Jansen. You went to see her husband. Why?"
Continuing to keep still, I said, "Because I wanted to know who she was. Someone dies on my property, I get curious. I'm guessing you're the bastard who wired the pipe bomb to our Plymouth. I'll repeat my question, who are you?"
He chuckled, muffled by the mask. "Merry and I were in business together. She would locate good stashes of jewelry, I would break in and steal them. We had quite the nice business going on. People would keep their jewels in stupid places, like consumer-quality safes. She'd tell me where to find the stuff at a particular address, I'd grab them, fence them, and she'd get a cut of the deal.
"She decided she wanted out, and we weren't done working together yet so far as I was concerned. I'd warned her what would happen if she tried to skip out on me. Mrs. Jansen has put a crimp in my lifestyle, me having to kill her and all. My disposable income has dropped way down."
Very slowly, I reached for and lit another cigarette. "So why did you come after me?" I asked. "So far as I was concerned, Meredith Jansen was just another suicide. All you did was attract attention to yourself."
"Throwing her off the roof here was a mistake, I admit," he said. "I should have just left her in her apartment to die. You have no idea the risk I took, carrying her down Neptune Street, then picking the padlock to your place, then lugging her up all those ladders to the top and throwing her off. Now you, you'll be found with a shotgun in your hands, next to the body of your dead wife, whom you'll have killed in a suicide pact. You'll have murdered her, then turned the shotgun on yourself. That's the nice thing about shotguns. They aren't registered the way handguns are. No way to prove you weren't the legal owner of this shotgun here."
"Oh really?" I said, and shoved Bekka into the empty hot tub with one hand while clearing my Beretta from my jacket with the other. Our assailant's shotgun went off , occupying space where Bekka had just been. I fired wildly at the space above me; I could already hear his footsteps on the flooring as he ran for the back of the house.
"Bastard!" I heard Bekka yell as I charged for the gate. Ahead of me I saw the outline of a man plummet from the floor above me into the street, as he jumped from the second level into Neptune St. He hobbled slightly as he got to his feet. I went through the gate, Bekka hot on my heels, following the shotgun-toting man up the street as he did his best to sprint southward.
He stopped and turned, swinging the shotgun towards us. I caught Bekka in a dive, pushing us both behind a Mazda as he fired three times. The shot did plenty of damage to parked cars. I leaned out and fired twice at the stumbling figure, missing with both. "Stay here!" I barked at Bekka, then leaped back out and ran towards him.
Hearing my footsteps, he swore, then pivoted again to fire. I was already on his tip, though, and fired twice. I caught him in one leg, stumbling him. He didn't go down though. He put a shell in the air, then brought in in to line.
I was already on top of him. I landed on his chest with both knees and shoved the Beretta up his nose, grabbing the shotgun with my free hand. I flung it away and whispered to him, "Still wanna play, asshole?" while bouncing his head on the pavement with the barrel of the Beretta. He smiled at me. I don't think I'd ever seen a more psychotic look on a face in my life.
Bekka came running up behind me. I told her, "Knock on doors until someone answers, we need the cops here, like, now. I don't know how long I can keep this crazy bastard pinned." Bekka took off for the first house. I tossed the shotgun under a nearby parked car, out of reach.
The crazy bastard struggled under my weight, nearly getting me off a couple times. Bekka came back up and announced, "Cops on their way." She looked down at my captive and pulled out her Colt, waving it at him. "You could have hit my husband with that shotgun of yours. I should you kill you where you are just for that." She calmly knelt down next to his head and shoved the barrel of the Colt into his eye. "You should die right now," she told him.
He didn't look amused any more. The look on Bekka's face had me alarmed, too: I couldn't tell how much she was bluffing right then. Ever since she was attacked Bekka had gotten a little gun crazy. Also protective of me. At that moment I wouldn't have put it past her to squirt the guy's brains all over the street.
The first patrol car pulled onto Neptune and aimed at us. With us being the ones holding guns, Bekka and I were thrown down on immediately. We placed our pistols on the pavement and got our hands on our heads, as instructed. The officer took a look at who we had pinned and said, "Matty! Pissin' people off again, I see. So what's going on here?"
I said, "You want to arrest him for the murder of Meredith Jansen. Also the attempted murder of Bekka Schneider, just a few moments ago, plus arson, building pipe bombs, and trespassing. He's been after us for a while, and I'm sick of him. He's dangerous, cuff him."
Our psycho Matty lay there in the street and said, "Hi officer Cheswick, how are you? These two shot me, and I have no idea why."
I laughed. "The reason why is lying underneath this car, officer. He fired a shotgun at us. I have a permit to carry concealed, and I used it. How much explanation do you need, officer? This guy's a nut."
Two more patrol cars arrived. This seemed to be a routine experience with them, dealing with the nut named Matty. At my prompting, one of them finally reached under the parked car and extracted the shotgun. I advised them that Matty's fingerprints were all over it. They took care. Officer Cheswick asked, "So what did the three of you get into? I'd like to know."
I explained, "This guy has been threatening our lives for the last few days. He planted a pipe bomb on one of our cars, and shot at us while we were sitting on our new property just a few minutes ago. I don't care how you know him, keep him under close watch. He tried to kill us, and told us he's responsible for the death of Meredith Jansen. He's the one who put her body on our property. What else do you need to know from us?"
An unmarked vehicle arrived on the scene. Cheswick said, "We'll save it for now. Now your name again, sir?"
Around one in the morning we were released from PD's grip, with our guns. They seemed amazed, but the path made by Matty the insane killer and his shotgun proved out what we told them. Matty had gleefully confessed to all, including the Jansen killing. Being in police custody meant he didn't have to sleep in his car, and he was happy about that. He seemed happy to be in custody, even if it meant never breathing a free breath of air for the rest of his life. He seemed disappointed that he hadn't taken out the Schneider family at the same time, though, leaving that for others.
"I've never gone up against the insane before," muttered Bekka as she adjusted her Colt in her holster.
"New one on me too," I replied. "How do you think he'll fare?"
Bekka yawned and stretched. "I think he'll adapt to institutional living quite well. He has the personality for it."
"I'm sure we'll learn more in the morning. What say we hit that all-night taco stand in Carlsbad, then go home and sleep?" I asked.
"Sounds like a plan," Bekka replied, getting in the cab. We gave the driver instructions to our address on Neptune St., where the Fury waited.