This is an apology to my nonexistent fans who have missed some episodes recently. Due to problems with supposed hackers and identity thieves, there will be a short writer’s strike until the problems can be resolved. The episodes will resume as soon as possible and I will do my best to bring them all up to date.
“Don’t like L.A. traffic, huh?” asks Gavin.
“I’ll admit to your male superiority in driving amongst the crazies,” says Belle. “You keep your eyes on the road while I watch our prey.”
“It’s getting dark. We can expect that whatever happens, will happen tonight.”
“And anything can happen in this city without anyone else ever knowing about it.”
“What did you expect?” asks Belle. “If you had shady doings, you wouldn’t meet in Beverly Hills.”
“I see some thugs who look like bodyguards. The place is going to be tight with security.”
“Then park up somewhere relatively safe and we’ll have to do some walking.”
“Lucky for us it’s a nice night.”
“Or unlucky. We don’t want to get spotted.”
Parking several blocks away, they retrace their steps to where they saw the Bandit’s car turn into a building. Several big guys are pacing around the entrance door.
“We’ll have to find another entry,” Belle whispers. She takes Gavin’s hand and he looks down at her, surprised. “Try not to look too suspicious.” He squeezes her hand as they pass the security guards and round the corner.
“Let’s see if there’s a back door,” says Gavin. They find a door on the opposite side of the building but it is locked. A set of stairs leads to several doors going up the side of the building. “What are the chances that any of those door will be unlocked?”
“Probably nil. But we have to try. If not, there are a few windows. If all the doors are locked, we should try to bust one of them.”
“Preferably the one farthest away so they can’t hear it.”
Running up the stairs, they try each door. At the top floor, the lock gives way. They enter a darkened room, moving slowly and silently. Belle pulls out her flashlight and turns it on. “It’s empty.” They exit through a door at the other end and enter a hallway. Quietly, they open several doors to find that most are empty but a few have what appears to be old office furniture.
“This may have been an office building at one time.”
Swiftly but noiselessly, they search the floor and find a stairwell. Descending one floor at a time, they perform a cursory inspection of each floor until they reach the second one. Hearing muffled voices, they proceed slowly. A ray of light shows at the end of the hall and they move towards it. Coming nearer, they discover that they are looking down into a storeroom where several people are meeting and talking. Belle recognizes Mr. Z and Justin, who is negotiating with an Hispanic man. Justin is speaking to him in Spanish. Justin nods to the briefcase in Mr. Z’s hands. The Latino hands a small packet of white powder to Justin, who takes a pinch and sniffs it, nodding. Mr. Z lays the briefcase on the table, opens it and turns it around to face the Latino, who fingers the money. He turns to his compatriots with an order and Mr. Z. opens the trunk of his car. Several men load packages of white powder into the car. Justin shakes hands with the Latino, then he and Mr. Z. drive off. The garage closes after them, and the men gather together, talking in Spanish.
Outside, Gavin says, “I’ll bet they’re headed back to Vegas.”
“I’ll call ahead and have them tagged. In the meantime, let’s go somewhere and discuss our strategy.”
“Nicholas!” cries Ashley. “I’m so glad to see you. Where’s Belle?”
“Uh,” stammers Nicholas. “Ashley. What are you doing here?”
“Mark is starting his new evening entertainment and asked me to come by and rehearse.”
“You’re singing tonight?”
“I hoped to. So, where’s Belle? Where did you two go?”
“Uh. We went out of town for a bit. But, uh. We got into a little fight and, uh, split up. I headed back and I, uh, thought she’d be back already.”
“I haven’t seen her. Are you split-split or is it just a little argument?”
“Uh. I’ll have to discuss it with her when she returns.”
“Well, then, I guess I have you all to myself for a short while.”
“Is something upsetting you?” asks William.
“I feel so alone,” says Melanie. “Not having the girls around and not quite belonging to your family yet.”
“You’ve got me.”
“You’re sweet,” says Melanie, smiling. “But it’s not enough. It’s uncomfortable having your whole family hate me.”
“Maybe I should have you get more involved with them. Then they’ll get to know what a wonderful person you are.”
“How are you going to do that?”
“I’ll talk to them about putting you on the board.”
“He’s got someone with him,” says Gavin.
“Take down his number,” says Belle. “We’re going to need some extra eyes. Looks like we’re heading into California.
“What have we got so far? Carl meets with Mr. X, who arranges a meeting with Mr. Y. Mr. X pays Carl and goes to Vegas with the rest of the money. We don’t know how much he got either. Mr. Y meanwhile takes the jewels to meet with Mr. Z. Then Mr. Z meets with Mr. X in Vegas. I don’t get it. Why give X money for jewels when Z and X are partners and Z and Y are partners?”
Belle responds, “Most likely because X and Y don’t know that they’re dealing with the same person. Z probably set both guys up so they don’t guess his identity.”
“So, somehow, Mr. Z is our man. He is the link to the whole operation.”
“Possibly. It would help if we have his identity.”
“The picture’s in your phone, right?” Gavin asks. Belle nods. “Let me get it sent to headquarters and see what they come up with.”
“Here’s your mail, Mr. Schuster,” says the clerk at the front desk. Sneaking into the apartment building behind Shikes, Nicholas sits in the lobby and picks up a magazine.
“Any messages?” asks Shikes.
Shikes collects his mail and takes the elevator up to his apartment. Nicholas gets up and walks out. In the foyer, he looks up Schuster’s name and apartment number.
“David, I wanted to talk to you about this Damian Stone business,” says Blanche.
“Fire away,” says David.
“It may bring a lot of negative publicity for us.”
“Don’t worry,” says David. “Dad already has a PR person working on that.”
“That’s not going to help if we’re called to testify.”
“That might not happen. They might not need to get our story at all.”
“Do they have enough to go on?”
“It was a witnessed homicide. All the defense can do is claim temporary insanity.”
“And they may claim that was due to circumstances surrounding what happened at your house. I deeply regret my impulsive actions.”
“It’s a Golde trait apparently.”
“Darling, I have to leave town,” says Carl.
“Why?” asks Melanie.
“Certain circumstances have made it almost impossible for me to stay. I think we should all relocate.”
“Have you forgotten that I’m married to William?”
“Walk out on him. The girls will need to go elsewhere to re-establish themselves.”
“I can’t walk out on William. Neither can the girls. They owe him for setting them up in business.”
“Well, they can no longer run that business. Besides, they’ve already moved out of the house. I think you should do the same.”
“Are you in trouble again? If so, I’d rather stay here.”
“Look, sweetheart. I don’t like to get nasty with you, but if you don’t come with me, you’re going to regret it.”
“I wonder if you should have stayed behind to watch Mr. X,” says Belle.
“Too late to start wondering,” says Gavin. “Mr. X may be in the passenger seat as we speak.”
“They’re stopping for a break.”
“Good,” says Gavin. “I need a break, too. Let’s load up on supplies.”
“That’s Justin Van Ness.”
“That boy with Mr. Z. He’s Justin Van Ness. My mom allowed him to stay with us when he came for his sister’s funeral.”
“Your mom’s not a very good judge of character.”
“My mom likes to give everyone a fair chance,” says Belle, defensively. “After all, you were given a chance to be a writer. She felt sorry for Justin under the circumstances. Besides, we don’t know what his role is.”
“Hopefully, we’ll know soon.”
“Checking out?” asks the clerk. The man nods. “Room number?”
“You’re all set,” says the clerk.
“That’s him,” says Belle, holding up her phone as if to dial.
“Should we follow the other fellow?” asks Nicholas. “We don’t know who may have the gems at this stage.”
“That means we’ll have to split up. You follow the other guy and if nothing happens in the next twenty-four hours, go home. I will do the same.”
Nicholas gives her a kiss on the cheek. “You take care.”
Belle hails a cab and instructs the driver to wait.
“Why can’t we just split the money and be done with it?” asks Justin.
“Don’t be a fool,” says Buster. “There’s a whole lot to be made from just this.”
“This is more money than any of us has ever seen,” continues Justin.
“The operation gets bigger and bigger each time,” says Gregory. “Everything is in place and we can’t just break loose.”
“Besides, The Bandit will be here shortly and he is a dangerous man to mess with,” says Buster.
Meanwhile, Gavin is frustratingly jogging up and down the street for the third time.
“Damian Stone is set to go on trial,” says Frank. “I want you to cover it, Rachel.”
“It’s a tall order, Mr. Steele. This should be Nicholas’s story.”
“It would be if he was in town. You’re my top writer right now. If Nicholas returns, he can join you.”
“Are you ready for the trial?” asks Michael.
“As much as I can be,” Amanda replies. “Never having been in this position, I don’t know what to expect.”
“He’s pleading temporary insanity.”
“Will anyone in their right minds buy that?”
“Who knows what the defense has up their sleeves.”
“Do you think they’ll try to air all the dirty laundry?”
“I think it’s safe to say that we should be prepared for anything and everything.”
“How is this going to affect Lucas?” asks Amanda.
“We can’t wrap him in cotton wool, but I don’t think he should be exposed to any publicity. If only there was some place we can send him for the time being.”
“He’s finally coming out of his shell, so now is not the time to do that.”
Belle follows the man to the airport, where he boards a plane for Vegas. Having checked in, Belle changes her disguise again, this time a blonde. On arrival, she rents a car and boards the same shuttle, keeping a watch on the man out of the corner of her eye and making note of his appearance. He, on the other hand, is observing everyone carefully.
Once inside her car, Belle changes for the third time, and wearing sunglasses to keep the glare out, she trails her man. As they head into a neighborhood, the man turns into a driveway while Belle continues on. At the end of the road she sees a jogger just turning around.
“Get in,” she says.
Gavin turns to her, startled, unrecognizing. Belle takes her red wig and sunglasses off. Gavin hops into the passenger seat. “What are you doing here?”
“Trailing my man.”
“What?! He’s here, too? Where’s Nicholas?”
“Actually, our original man is now being followed by Nicholas. They met up at a hotel in D.C. and split up.”
“Did you catch any of their names?”
“No,” says Belle. “Apparently, the man paid in cash for his room and the clerk was not being helpful. But I’ve got a picture.”
“What did he look like?”
“Tall, dark brown straight hair, medium build, handsome with chiseled features, about thirty.”
“So he’s the one that just pulled into the house I’ve been watching.”
“Your man went in there?” Gavin nods. “Then let’s just wait here and see who comes out.”
“We’ll need backup to follow the ones staying behind. We have no clue at this stage what is going on. This neighborhood is not made for easy spying.”
“You call. I’ll drive. Looks like my man is leaving.”
“You were right,” says Nicholas. “There he goes.”
“Looks like he’s heading down to D.C.”
“What are you doing?”
“Calling for backup. In case we lose him.”
“Backup from whom?”
“The police, silly,” says Belle. “I’ve got the license number. All I need is some extra pairs of eyes watching for the car in case we should lose him somewhere.”
“Will they help?”
“Of course. We don’t want to lose this guy and we can’t let him get suspicious that he is being trailed. It’s better to have posts along the way. He would never know the highway patrol was watching him.”
“Boy, is it hot out here,” says Buster.
“You’ve been in New York too long,” says Gregory.
“I’m glad to be back,” says Buster. “Everything set for the next phase?”
“Justin will go to L.A. tomorrow.”
“The Bandit is expected.”
Ashley barges into Sylvia’s office, where John and Paul are meeting with her.
“Has anyone seen Belle?” asks Ashley.
Paul rolls his eyes. “Belle has a life of her own to lead. She doesn’t answer to any of us.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” says Ashley. “But what if something’s happened to her?”
“Since when were you so concerned about Belle’s welfare?” asks Paul.
Ashley glares at him. “She is my baby sister.”
“As if that means something to you.”
“Enough,” says Sylvia. “Belle called to let me know she and Nicholas were going out of town for a couple of days.”
“Nicholas?” asks Ashley and Paul.
“Yes,” says Sylvia. “They have been going around together.”
“They went alone?” asks Ashley, bristling.
“As far as I know.”
“Nice hotel,” comments Belle. “The Clover.”
“I’m surprised not to be in the middle of downtown in a hole somewhere,” says Nicholas.
“We’d better hurry,” says Belle, getting out of the car and grabbing a bag from the back seat.
“What’s in there?” asks Nicholas.
“Some props. C’mon.”
They enter the hotel just as Shikes steps into an elevator. As the door closes, Belle rushes forward. “Hold, please!” The door opens and she and Nicholas climb in. “Thank you.” Shikes nods. Seeing the button for “14” lighted, she asks for “13”.
When the elevator lets them off at “13”, she leads Nicholas down the hall to the stairwell. “Put this hat on and turn your coat inside out.”
“Just do it. We can’t let him recognize us.” She dons a wig and a hat as she climbs the stairs.
On the fourteenth floor, she signals for him to be quiet as they open the door from the stairs to the landing. Walking down casually towards the elevator, arm in arm, she whispers to him and he giggles. A knock sounds from around the corner. They speed past the elevator and down the hall. At the end, they see Shikes entering a room.
“Let’s get the room number and go back down,” says Belle.
“He talked,” says Lisa. “He talked!”
“That’s great,” says Rick. “We’re making progress.”
“I wonder what Marie and Dan did with him?”
“We can compare notes. How about having them over for dinner tomorrow. It might give Marie and Nana a chance to get to know each other as well.”
“Nicholas has been very busy chasing after his story,” says Frank. “So we need someone to take on the main duties of reporting on local news.”
“You want me for that position?” asks Rachel.
“You’ve been very thorough with your work,” says Carol. “But you’ve only been taking the small jobs. We think you have tremendous potential and would like to offer you the opportunity to use all your talents. It’s up to you. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”
“I’m flattered. I enjoy working here and although the prospect scares me a little, I’ll try not to let you down.”