The Friday filming schedule wrapped up early since the producer was having another one of his parties in Atlanta. Around 2 o’clock, there was a steady stream of cars heading south on 36 to I-75.
Fehr’s rented mansion was located in Buckhead, north of downtown Atlanta, in a subdivision known as Tuexedo Park, an old and very rich subdivision that had been carved out of large tracts of farmland starting back in the early 1900s. Wealthy Atlantans first built seasonal homes in the area and then eventually year round residences were built as Atlanta continued to grow and the development of the automobile made the travel from the area back to downtown Atlanta an easier commute.
Unlike the flat, stripped, grid lined and cookie cutter subdivisions that would spring up across the US after World War 2, Tuxedo Park was developed over a period of years within the bends and curves of existing roads that gave it a park like feel. The homes, large, elegant and often set way back from the road, were surrounded by trees and natural landscaping. The land tracts the homes sat on were large and spacious, maintaining a piece of “country” setting yet less than 10 miles from downtown Atlanta.
Around four-thirty, Bill parked his Grand Prix along the side of the road a couple of house lots away from Fehr’s mansion. The road was lined with cars already. The neighborhood was truly a woodland type setting and it appeared quiet and peaceful. Too bad a sleazy film producer like Michael Fehr had to have his wild parties in such a place.
On behalf of us normal people from California, I apologize…
Bill walked the road to Fehr’s mansion and followed other people up the long driveway to the entrance. The grand foyer was a semicircle that lead in three different directions and most people were being corralled into the great room off to the right.
The great room, in itself the size of a small house, was full of people. Two sets of French doors faced a patio with a pool. The doors were wide open, letting in a pleasant southern fall breeze and bright sunlight. The patio was occupied with people as was the pool.
It wasn’t a black tie affair, but everyone was dressed sharply. Women in cocktail dresses or high fashion ensembles, men in jackets and ties. Then there was cowboy formal, nice jeans paired with a crisp shirt. Most of the stunt men, crew and male extras were dressed this way and Bill was no different, going with black jeans and white collared shirt. Music filled the house along with talking and laughter and the liquor flowed easily.
There were two buffet tables lined with platters of food. Fruits and veggies along with crackers and cheese for the standard fair, accompanied with shrimp, caviar, finger sandwiches and foods Bill couldn’t even identify. The bar was set up just outside the French doors on the patio and Bill made his way there first.
He ordered a bourbon and it would be his only drink for the duration. He looked around at the partiers on the patio and in the pool. There was only person he was interested in finding and watching and that was Michael Fehr.
The producer, however, wasn’t anywhere to be seen it seemed. Bill wandered back into the great room. He lingered near one of the buffet tables, nibbling on food that would essentially be his dinner, and he watched as people came and went in the room.
While he was watching for Fehr, there were people – women - that noticed and were watching him. There was a reason he was put in an officer’s uniform. Bill himself didn’t think he was anything special, his days of youthful primping and thinking he was anything to look at were long past. Twenty years with the FBI, a little too much booze at times, the loss of his wife….these things had taken their toll. Nonetheless the traumas and passage of time didn’t diminish the attractive man who had endured them. A couple of women approached him, made some small talk and although he was polite enough he was clear in not being interested in anything else. Eventually, the girls would drift away.
He watched and listened. Boastful noise came from the stuntmen, over the top stories about jumps, falls and other craziness, risking their lives for 10 seconds of film. Young girls listened, enthralled and too easily impressed.
He spotted Joey, sitting on one of the couches with three women around him. He had a hand on a thigh of each girl on either side of him while the third one was leaning over the back of the couch, nearly spilling out of her dress.
Bill looked away, shaking his head to himself. Where the hell’s Fehr?
He watched as people came and went from the living room. New arrivals to the party came in with a flourish to a chorus of “hello darlings!” and giving and receiving cheek to cheek kisses. Men and women clinging to one another would casually walk out disappearing to other areas of the house.
It was a constant and steady stream of people. There were easily 30 people in the large living room alone at any one time, and who knew what was going on in other parts of the house and how many people were there.
Since Fehr didn’t seem to be making an appearance in the living room, Bill figured to try to find him. He grabbed another h’orderve and with his glass of bourbon in hand, slipped out of the living room with hardly a notice.
He entered the wide hallway, where more folks were hanging out, talking, drinking. One couple was locked in a hot and heavy kiss, pawing at each other. Bill was about the only one who really noticed. Everyone else in the hallway seemed oblivious.
From out of a nowhere, a tall and attractive brunette woman walked up to Bill. He stopped to look at her, dressed in a dark green cocktail dress with pearls on her ears. She smiled at him.
“Hi,” she said. “I haven’t seen you here before.”
He smiled back politely. “I’m new. First time at one of Mr. Fehr’s parties.”
“Oh…” the woman looked Bill up and down. “Are you here by yourself?”
Bill noticed her silent appraisal of him. He refrained from returning the favor. “I am.”
The woman was intrigued. “Well, these parties aren’t as much fun when you’re by yourself…” She smiled at him. “I’d be happy to show you around…show you the ropes…”
Bill wasn’t sure he wanted to know what the “ropes” were. He casually lifted his glass of bourbon to take a drink and stall on an answer.
“You’re…well versed in these kinds of social events?” he asked.
“Absolutely,” she purred. “I like to see people enjoying themselves and relaxing.” She gave him the slow once over again. “What’s your name?”
“Bill,” he said. “Bill Alexander.”
“I’m Mandy. How long have you been with the production, Bill?”
“Just a couple of weeks. I’m one of the Confederate extras.”
“Yes,” she said, “and I can see why they let you in…”
“Mandy, there you are…”
Bill turned to see Michael Fehr walk up. The producer stepped to Mandy slipping an arm around her waist and gracing her cheek with a kiss. “I’ve been looking all over for you.”
“I’ve been here the whole time,” Mandy said with a smile, “wondering where you were.”
“Lost in a house full of people as usual,” Fehr replied. He looked at Bill and smiled. “All these people makes the house seem smaller and yet I couldn’t find her.”
“Michael, this is Bill,” Mandy said. “One of the new extras on your movie.”
“Pleasure to meet you, Bill,” Fehr said, sticking a hand out. “Michael Fehr, I’m the producer.”
Bill returned the hand shake. “Nice to meet you, sir. Great party you have going here.”
“Makes the whole bloody thing worth it sometimes. Of course, having a beautiful hostess helps too.” Michael gave Mandy a squeeze closer to him. “Mandy, my dear… Peter should be here sometime soon. When he gets here bring him to the study will you?”
“For business?” Mandy asked.
“Unfortunately, yes. But it shouldn’t be too long of a meeting. It was the only time I could meet with him.”
“As long as it doesn’t hold you up for too long. You know how I hate to roam a party alone…” As Mandy spoke she turned her gaze to Bill.
Fehr laughed. “My darling, I know you. You’re never alone during a party.” He kissed her cheek again. “Keep an eye out for Peter. I’ll see you later. Bill, enjoy yourself. As I tell everyone, consider the house like your own. Feel free to wander around.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Fehr walked away and disappeared beyond a group of people in the hall way, leaving Bill standing with Mandy. She smiled at Bill.
“Well,” she said, “since I have to go watch the front door a bit waiting for Peter would you care to join me?”
Not knowing who Peter was, or what kind of meeting it was going to be, and if it might be a chance to find some dirt on Fehr, Bill debated the risks. He decided to take the chance and he agreed.
Mandy’s smile brightened more. “Wonderful…” She hooked her arm around Bill’s and they walked the hallway together.
There were still people coming in to the party. Before Bill and Mandy got to the front foyer, a group of new party goers arrived. Bo and Luke with Daisy and MaryAnne stepped into the house and the two girls looked in awe at the large foyer.
“Can you believe this place?” Daisy said.
“Shoot, this is just the front door,” Bo said. “I wonder what the rest of the house looks like?”
“We’ll find out soon enough,” Luke said. The four moved through the foyer and into the main hallway. They met with familiar faces of other extras from the movie and found themselves corralled into the main living room and out of sight of Bill as he entered the grand foyer with Mandy.
There was an empty Victorian style bench seat and they sat down. Bill still had his bourbon in hand and he took another drink. “Who’s this Peter, if I may ask? Is he a movie big shot?”
Mandy chuckled. “In a way. He’s one of Michael’s business partners, helped to finance this picture. I’m sure they’re gonna talk about money. That’s all they ever talk about.”
“How about you, Bill? Have you worked in movies before…?”
“A couple of times, a few bit parts here n’ there. I mostly do theater work.”
Mandy smiled. “Handsome man such as yourself and you didn’t break into film or television?”
Bill chuckled, revealing a toothy grin. “Oh I tried. I went to LA but…it just wasn’t happening. I can see now nobody’d wanna put this mug on film. They got me hiding behind a full beard as it is for this movie if that tells you anything.”
Mandy laughed. “That’s a shame. You have a fantastic profile, Bill, a very distinguished look about you.” She paused, studying him. “I’ll bet they have you in an officer’s uniform.”
Bill looked surprised. “As a matter of fact, they do…”
“Of course they do! I’d be mortified if they put somebody like you in just some corporal’s uniform. That’d be ridiculous.”
Now it was Bill’s turn to study Mandy. “You sound like somebody who knows where to find talent.”
“I am. I ran a talent agency in LA for a number of years.”
“Ah. You “ran” one….I take it you no longer do now?”
“I sold the agency a couple of years ago. I still manage a few clients, a small select group of people.” She leaned a little closer to him. “I’m always on the lookout for new talent, Bill. Michael’s negotiating for his next picture now, I could get you in as more than just an extra.”
“You don’t know if I can act.”
She smiled at him seductively. “I can audition you.”
“What if I fail your audition?”
“I don’t think you will…”
Bill didn’t have to pretend to feel uncomfortable, because he was. He chuckled nervously. “Uh, that’s a pretty good vote of confidence for somebody you just met.”
“I’m a pretty good judge of people.”
While Bill was being appraised by Mandy, the Dukes and MaryAnne were enjoying themselves in the main living room, eating and socializing. MaryAnne recognized Joey but thankfully the lug head didn’t spot her. How could he, surrounded by three beautiful women? It was a sight MaryAnne couldn’t understand.
Joey and his companions didn’t stay much longer in the living room. With an arm around two of the ladies and the third following in tow, they all left the living room, disappearing into the main hallway for some other part of the house.
Back at the main foyer, Mandy’s promises to Bill of a lucrative acting career was interrupted by the arrival of Peter Nelson, Fehr’s business partner. Mandy and Peter greeted one another like old friends, with a hug and Peter placing kiss on each cheek. Mandy introduced Bill, calling him her next “project.”
“Nice to meet you, Bill…” Peter shook hands and paused a moment, studying him. “Have we met somewhere before?”
Bill recognized him too, from California. Nelson was a known dope dealer and dabbler in small time porn films. Bill had busted one of Nelson’s dope operations several years back and it was no surprise Nelson remembered. Bill played it dumb. “Ah, I don’t think so…”
“You look familiar…”
Bill gave a disarming smile. “Maybe you saw me in one of those awful movies I did.”
Nelson shook his head. “No, it seems I’ve met you before.”
“Well, I’ve been told I have a pretty common face.”
“Oh now listen to him,” Mandy cooed. “Pretty, certainly, but definitely not common.”
Peter forced a smile. “Sounds like she’s looking to make you topline, Bill.”
Mandy hooked her arm around Peter’s. “I told you. He’s my next project. I see a very bright future for him in film. Come now, Michael’s waiting…”
Mandy led Peter to Michael’s office. Bill followed Mandy like a loyal dog, noting where the office was located and hoping he could sneak back at some point to snoop. Fehr was already there, waiting. Once Peter was sent in to the room, Mandy closed the door and turned to Bill.
“There. My obligation for that is done.” She stepped closer and touching a finger along the edge of his partially opened shirt. “Now…why don’t you and I find someplace private upstairs to discuss your future?”
“Uh…here and now?”
“No time like the present.” Mandy touched her fingers to his chest. “Let’s talk about your…audition…”
Damn… damn! This was really not a situation Bill wanted to be in. He glanced over at the stairs leading up to the next floor and wondered how long Fehr’s meeting was going to last. He didn’t have much of an excuse otherwise to hang around away from the party waiting for the study to be empty so he could poke around but…
He stalled as he continued to debate it internally. His only other option was to risk wandering back and forth between the party and this area of the house and be all that more obvious, especially if he said no to Mandy. The touch of her hand upon him was triggering conflicting feelings within, the very primal desire to respond to her and the logical, emotional sense to Not Go Here. “Ah…heh, what kind of material did you have in mind for this audition? I’m not very good at cold readings…”
“There won’t be anything cold about this. All the material you need, you already have…” she smiled up at him, caressing his chest.
Mandy giggled. “C’mon, Bill….don’t be shy…” She removed her hand from his shirt and hooked her arm around his. She tugged him toward the stairs… and he followed.
At the top of the stairs, they were not alone in this part of the house. It was here that the couples that disappeared from the party came to. The music from downstairs was a muffled vibration. As Bill and Mandy passed by rooms, some with doors partially opened, other sounds could be heard. There was pleasure….and then not pleasure. Somewhere a girl was screaming, crying for whatever was happening to stop.
Instinctively Bill stopped, the distress call cutting right through him. He paused to listen, to figure out what direction it was coming from but Mandy turned his attention back to her.
“No, Bill,” she said. “It’s ok. Some of them like it that way…”
My God…he thought. What was he getting in to? This was wrong. He thought of Jacy Thomas and wondered…
Mandy just smiled at him. “I can tell you’re not into that kind of thing. That’s okay…” she touched a finger to his lips, “…I’m not either.” She gently pulled his arm, getting him to walk again with her.
At the end of the hallway, they came to a room. Mandy led Bill across the threshold and closed the door.
An ornate dressing screen blocked part of the view of the room. A matching chair was near the door. Mandy’s hands were on Bill’s shirt, disengaging buttons and sweeping the material open. She wasn’t wasting time.
“Relax,” she said, sensing his tension. “This’ll be fun…”
Not everybody was having fun, he thought. He drew a deep breath, trying to block the screaming cries of the girl from his mind, trying to block everything from his mind. Mandy’s hands were on his chest again and she snaked her arms around him, pulling him toward her for a kiss.
When she let him go, she smiled. “You’re very tense, Bill…”
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Her fingers trickled down his chest to his black jeans, loosening them. “Let me help you relieve some of that tension…”
His jeans were loosened further and pushed apart. Mandy stripped him of his shirt and kissed him again, feeling the tension start to subside. Bill let the primal urge come forward and take control and he put his arms around Mandy, pulling her close. He tugged at her dress…
Mandy drew back and smiled at him. “First things first,” she said, pulling down on his jeans. Bill let her go and removed his jeans, leaving them on the chair with his shirt.
Still in his briefs Mandy paused to assess him, palming her hand over the front of him.
Bill gulped at the touch. She smiled, massaging him a bit and then turned her back to him to allow him to loosen her dress. He did and she faced him again but didn’t let the dress fall yet, instead taking him by the hand and leading him around the dressing screen. A king size bed that was set perpendicular to the west wall awaited them.
Outside the bedroom, Dale listened and waited. He pushed the door open quietly and listened. In his view was the chair with Bill’s clothes on it. The dressing screen hid him from view of the occupants of the bedroom. He heard the rustle of Mandy’s dress and then her giggle followed by the creak of the bed. Things were hushed until he heard Bill’s panted breathing, a whispered yes and the faint pleasurable sound of Mandy’s warm and soft persuasions working him over…
Dale slipped into the bedroom and reached for the clothes on the chair. He fished the pockets and found Bill’s wallet. There he found a California driver’s license with the name William Alexander on it. He then found a couple of credit cards, which didn’t surprise him, but the name on the cards did. It wasn’t Bill Alexander.
It was Bill Maxwell.
Dale frowned and rummaged further. For a guy who had spent some time in LA, apparently as an actor, apparently having done a few jobs in film and television, Dale didn’t find a Screen Actors Guild card…
Dale returned the wallet to the pocket of the jeans and put the clothes back on the chair. He quietly slipped back out of the bedroom while Mandy continued to entice Bill into a sweet oblivion…
Forty-five minutes later Bill emerged from the bedroom, stumbling and disheveled. He leaned against the door frame to steady himself for a moment and looked in the hallway. Mandy had left a few minutes earlier, but had promised to be back. Bill didn’t want to go another round with her and he hoped Fehr was done with his meeting. Bill wanted nothing more than to snoop the study and get the hell out of the house.
The house party was still very much in full swing. Music vibrated from downstairs, voices, laughter and other sounds of pleasure came from nearby rooms. There was no screaming now. Bill pushed himself away from the door and shuffled down the hall, trying to fix his now ill-fitting clothes. He felt good...and horrible at the same time. There was no question Mandy was a beautiful woman and a pleasurable one but in the heat of his “audition” the face of another beautiful brunette woman had come to him.
MaryAnne. And as he thought of her now, Bill felt ashamed. He descended the stairs, passing couples clinging to one another that were on their way up. Physically the time with Mandy may have been satisfying, but emotionally Bill found himself in a very dark and empty place.
He stepped off the last step of the stairs and looked to Fehr’s study. He was relieved to find the door part way open.
He lingered outside the room for a moment, as another party goer passed by then disappeared around a corner. The hallway clear, Bill listened at the door and then peered in carefully. The study was empty. He slipped into the room and pushed the door back to where it was.
The study was steeped in blues, from the thick light blue carpeting, the blue striped wallpaper and heavy navy blue drapes on the window. Expensive paintings hung from the walls and the furniture, like every other room in the house, was 18th and 19th century styled with ornate detailing and high polished finishes.
Bill wasn’t beyond finding the room and furnishings impressive, but it was the eye of the investigator that noticed more. There were noticeable marks on the carpet, indentations of where furniture had once sat. The marks were odd, however. It wasn’t so much that a piece of furniture was missing, but that other pieces had been moved around. The dark brown leather low standing Chesterfield style sofa was in the middle of the room, facing the writing desk, with a glass top end table at one end and a large lamp on it. The indentations were noticeable near the end table, as if the couch and table had been shifted over. There was no end table on the other side of the couch and no marks indicating there had been one.
Something about the set up struck Bill odd, but he left it alone for the moment. The heavy wooden writing desk was his initial interest and he stepped closer to it. He clicked on the desk lamp and started poking around.
Bill wasn’t sure what he was even looking for, but he would take whatever he could find. Fehr had a calendar open on the desk. Notations about the filming, schedules, meetings, phone meetings and parties filled the producer’s days. Bill spotted Peter Nelson’s name on today’s date for a meeting.
Bill flipped the calendar pages back, seeing Nelson’s name again, for a meeting two weeks ago, on the same day as the last party Fehr had hosted. There was another meeting, and party, two weeks prior to that, which was the when the movie first started production up in Hazzard. Hazzard and Denton showed up on Fehr’s calendar too.
There was something else Bill noticed. On the days of the party and meetings with Nelson, Fehr had marked “shipment” at the bottom of that day’s planner. Shipment of what, Bill wondered. Film? Or perhaps more likely given Nelson’s involvement… dope?
Bill set the calendar back to today’s date and then opened the center drawer of the desk, finding a couple of file folders and two ledger books. Bill carefully removed the ledgers and opened the first one.
Numbers lined the right hand column, with plus and minuses. The left hand side gave simple descriptions looking to be related to the movie. Location expenses, catering, vehicles, rental fees for equipment, payroll, ect. The accounting was informal yet meticulous. Bill figured Fehr was just keeping tabs on everything to ensure all was nice and tidy for studio bean counters once the film was completed. Bill flipped through a few pages and found more of the same, including a payment to Jefferson Davis Hogg of Hazzard County for the use of the field the battle scenes were being filmed at.
Bill put the ledger aside and opened the second one. Again, numbers lined the right hand column but on the left the descriptions were short and seemed coded. Accept for the lines marked “shipment, pmt recv’d” followed by a number and then “kilos.”
Bill didn’t need an interpretation for that. Fehr was definitely distributing dope, or something illicit. There were notations down the page of payments to “PN.”
Peter Nelson. What Bill couldn’t quite figure based on the ledger entries was what kind of business relationship Nelson and Fehr had. Nelson himself distributed drugs through his own system. At least, in California. Since this was Georgia, perhaps Nelson was looking to expand his empire with a little help from Fehr.
Unfortunately, the more information Bill found the more questions he was having. As it was, he didn’t know what specifically Fehr was distributing, where he kept it, how he moved it…
Bill closed the second ledger and placed it back in the drawer. He looked in the manila folders, finding fax copies of invoices and receipts related to the movie. Camera trucks, equipment, catering, costumes, ect…
He returned the folders and ledgers to the center drawer and went about checking the other drawers. There was nothing unusual until he got the middle drawer on the right hand side. A big crumpled yellow envelop was shoved in. Bill carefully pulled it out and found a .45 automatic at the bottom of the draw.
No surprise there, since the envelope he held was stuffed full of cash. All large bills. Bill fingered through the strapped bills and figured he was holding about $25,000.
Recalling the numbers he saw in the second ledger, he figured he was holding Fehr’s cut of the shipment deal. He closed the envelope and stuffed it back into the drawer.
Bill paused, looking over the desk to the sofa and seeing the marks on the carpet again. He stepped around the desk and went over to the sofa, which faced the desk. Everything was shifted to the right, Bill’s right that is as he faced the sofa. The left side of the sofa, where the one end table was, revealed the marks of furniture that was no longer there.
Curious, Bill moved the end table on the left further left, back into carpet indentations that it lined up perfectly with. He then pulled the sofa left, lining it up with the marks on the carpet. When Bill looked at the revealed space on the right side of the sofa, he saw the dark reddish brown stain on the rug. He crouched down to touch it, recognizing as dried blood. The stain wasn’t large but was noticeable on the light blue carpet.
Something else was noticeable on the carpet too. A tiny sparkle winked in the light. Bill gingerly touched his fingers to it, picking it up, the fragment just a drop on his fingertip. He lightly pressed it between his thumb and forefinger, realizing it was broken glass.
He glanced to the end table at the other end of the couch. It had an inlaid glass top…
He looked at the whole layout in front of him again. The marks where a matching end table had once been, the stain on the carpet, the glass on his finger…
Jacy Thomas died from a blunt force trauma to the head…
Bill ran his hand carefully underneath the sofa to see if other glass shards might be there. He touched something and brought it out from under the sofa.
There, laid out in his hand was a diamond tear drop earring. The same as the one Jacy still had on when her body was found.
Bill closed his hand around the earring, knowing now how Jacy died. The sound of the screaming girl he heard earlier came back to him…
He swallowed back his bile and tucked the earring into his shirt pocket. He stood up and returned the furniture to their ‘new’ positions.
With this new and frightening knowledge in his head, Bill paused in the middle of the office. Jacy had been killed in that very room and Fehr was mixed up in some very heavy stuff. The sooner he could shut the producer down, the better—
The door suddenly opened. Bill turned and faced Dale Kingston.
Dale looked at him. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
Bill summoned as much drunk charm as he could despite his now slamming heartbeat. “Oh, hi there! Heh…I think I’m lost.” He started moving toward the door. “I was, ah, looking for Mandy. She said to meet her…um, somewhere here. I think I got the wrong room.”
“You got the wrong room. Mandy would be upstairs.”
“Oh! Up the stairs. I caught something about the stairs when she was sweet talkin’ in my ear but I guess I didn’t hear it right. Thinking of, uh, heh…something else. Anyway! Sorry about that. Nice room though…” Bill smiled and mercifully was allowed to cross the threshold and leave. He stumbled a little, which didn’t have to be faked and he headed back toward the stairs again, while Dale watched him.
Bill headed back up the stairs to the top landing. He paused by the railing, looked down to the other floor and saw his surprise visitor was gone. He headed back down the stairs.
He made his way back to the living room, stumbling in. Bill looked around and spotted new faces. Bo and Luke were standing by the buffet table, plates in hand with food, talking to some of the stuntmen.
As if Bill wasn’t feeling sick enough, sitting on one of the couches near the French doors that led to the patio was Daisy…and MaryAnne. And near them, in another chair talking to them both was Fehr.
“Son of…” Bill bit back his words, and bile, and took a deep breath. He moved through the living room towards them.
MaryAnne looked up as Bill approached, surprised to see him. He hadn’t said anything about coming to the party. He sat down beside her and put an arm around her. “Hello, gorgeous.”
MaryAnne could smell the bourbon and he seemed drunk. “Um, hi…” she said, unsure.
Bill just gave her a mischievous look. MaryAnne looked away and back at the producer.
Fehr smiled. “Ah Bill, you look like you’ve been enjoying yourself.”
Bill was still looking at MaryAnne. “Yep. Great party you got here Mr. Fehr, just great.” He looked at Fehr now. “Got a little something for everybody here, even old geezers like me.”
Fehr laughed and he met Bill’s gaze directly. “That’s good to hear. Did Mandy give you the grand tour of the house?”
“She sure did…”
“Wonderful. I was just talking to these two lovely ladies here, Bill, about giving them the grand tour of the house. ” Fehr looked at the way Bill had his arm around MaryAnne, and had noticed the way he was looking at her when he sat down. MaryAnne didn’t quite seem to know what make of Bill, yet Fehr noticed she wasn’t pushing Bill away. “Now that you’ve seen the house yourself, maybe you can help me show them around?”
Bill’s ulcer was starting to churn by this point. He had to get the girls out of the house. “That’d be great, Mr. Fehr, but, ah...I think there was somebody looking for you a few minutes ago. Out by your study there. He asked me if I’d seen you. I said I hadn’t but…you’re here now.”
“Who was it, do you know?”
“Uh… Dale? Tall guy, dark hair. Real sharp lookin’ with the pink shirt.”
Fehr nodded. “That sounds like Dale. I’ll go see what he wanted.” He looked at the girls and took a hand of both Daisy and MaryAnne and kissed each. “You two lovely ladies, don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back in a few minutes…” Fehr stood up from the chair and weaved into the crowd, disappearing.
Daisy looked at MaryAnne. “He keeps pouring it on doesn’t he?”
“He keeps trying.”
Beside her, Bill suddenly sobered and he sat up straight, looking at them both. “C’mon,” he said, “we’re getting out of here.”
“What?” MaryAnne said. “Wait a minute, you didn’t tell me you were coming to this party.”
“Neither did you,” Bill replied in a low tone. “What are you two doing here?”
“We only came here to see this fancy house everybody’s been talking about,” Daisy said.
“Yeah,” MaryAnne said. “Not every day ya see a house with seven bedrooms and six bathrooms.”
“And two kitchens, and a gaming room and a movie theatre…” Daisy added.
Bill shook his head. “No! Fehr is not going to give you, either of you, a tour of the house. What you’re gonna get, is the full house treatment.”
“Oh sugar, I wouldn’t trust Mr. Fehr to show me where the bathroom was,” Daisy said. “MaryAnne and I just figured we’d wander around ourselves—“
Bill cringed. “No! You don’t want to see this place! Either of you. And not Bo and Luke either. Now c’mon…” Bill stood up taking MaryAnne’s arm to get her to stand up with him.
MaryAnne stood up but resisted his urging further. “Bill, what are you talking about? What’s the matter with you?”
Daisy was standing too and she looked at Bill. “Sugar, you don’t look so good.”
He didn’t feel so good either. He held on to MaryAnne to keep from falling over until his nausea passed. “You shouldn’t be here,” he said, his tone low and very serious. “You have to get out of here. Go get Bo and Luke and let’s go, I’ll explain once we’re out of here.”
Daisy glanced at MaryAnne, who nodded. Bill’s urging to vacate the party was palpable and Daisy quickly stepped away to fetch Bo and Luke.
Since an FBI man was telling them to leave the party, Bo and Luke didn’t argue. The boys and Daisy followed Bill and MaryAnne out of the living room, through the grand foyer and out the front door. Nobody said a word until they got the end of the driveway.
“What’s going on, Bill?” Luke asked. “Why’d you want us all to leave?”
The group paused by the road that was lined with cars. Bill was still hanging on to MaryAnne, to keep himself steady. The fresh air had helped the nausea a little, but he still felt physically ill. He looked at Daisy and MaryAnne in particular. “Fehr’s a creep. He’s a notorious womanizer and he only had one thing in mind with the two of you and it had nothing to do with showing off his Victorian furniture and vintage wallpaper.”
“We figured that much,” MaryAnne said. “We had no intention of going anywhere in that house with him.”
“Yeah,” Daisy said. “He’s been trying to sweet talk me and MaryAnne for over a week.”
“Awright then but if you had gone around the house yourselves, you’d have been in just as bad of a situation. There’s extracurricular activities going on in there,” he said, looking to Bo and Luke too, “and I didn’t want to see any of you get mixed up in it.”
“Extracurricular activities?” Daisy said.
MaryAnne looked at Bill grimly and then turned to the Dukes. “The party within the party,” she said. “A little sex, a little drugs…”
Luke gave a low whistle.
“I’m glad we got out of there,” Bo said. “You imagine what Uncle Jesse would do to us if we got caught in something like that?”
“But I didn’t see anything,” Daisy said. “How do you know that stuff’s going on?”
“It’s in other parts of the house,” Bill explained. “If you two had gone wandering, somebody would’ve thought you were looking for that kind of…fun.” Bill shifted his weight, leaning on MaryAnne. “Fehr’s dangerous,” he said plainly, “and it’s more than just… the parties…” Another wave of nausea hit him and he closed his eyes and lowered his head. “Oh…”
MaryAnne held him up as Luke grabbed Bill’s other arm to keep him upright.
“I’m…ok…” he said.
“No, you’re not okay,” MaryAnne said, concerned. “You can hardly stand up…”
“I think I…had too much to drink…Listen, MaryAnne, will you drive me…back to Hazzard? I’m not gonna…keep the car on the road.”
“You can explain the rest of it to us back in Hazzard,” Luke said. “We’ll meet ya there, ok?”
“Awright, drive careful now.”
“MaryAnne, do you want me to come with you?” Bo asked.
“It’s okay, Bo, I can take care of Bill. Thank you tho’.” She smiled.
Bo nodded. He hoped Maxwell’s condition was only related to having too much to drink and not anything else. If he got any sicker, Bo wasn’t sure how MaryAnne could handle it by herself along the highway. “Well, we won’t be too far behind you. If you need anything holler on the CB ok?’
The group parted and the Dukes headed down the road in one direction to where they had parked the General. MaryAnne looked at Bill.
“Where’d you park?” she asked.
“Up the other way here,” he gestured meekly in the opposite direction the Dukes had gone. “I think I can make it…long as you don’t mind me hanging on ya.”
“I’ll carry you if I have to, how’s that?”
He smiled. “I wish you would.”
MaryAnne grinned but her concern for Bill wasn’t eased. They walked down the side walk, passing several cars before finally reaching his black Grand Prix. MaryAnne helped Bill to drop into the passenger seat and then she went around to get behind the wheel. Bill handed her his key and a moment later the coupe pulled out into the street.
**** **** ****
From a second floor window, Fehr, Dale, Peter Nelson and Mandy had watched Bill leave with two women and two other young men.
“Who are those people with him?” Peter asked.
“Hicks from the town up north where we’re filming,” Dale said. “He’s been asking a lot of questions about Jacy, that’s why I had Mandy set him up. While she was busy with him I looked at his wallet. His name isn’t Bill Alexander. It’s Bill Maxwell.”
“Maxwell!” Peter said. “He’s a Fed! I knew I recognized him, he was a pain in the ass for me in California. Smashed my operation to hell, set me back months and millions. Believe me, his was not a face I was to forget.”
Fehr looked at Dale. “Did he have a Fed ID on him?”
“No. But he also doesn’t have a SAG card either. The talent agency in Atlanta vouches for him and says he’s SAG, but he’s not. I checked both East and West. No Bill Alexander. The movie credits he listed are bogus too. If that wasn’t enough, I found him in the study after you and Peter finished your meeting.”
Fehr frowned. “What was he doing?”
“He was just standing there. If he’d been snooping around, I couldn’t tell. He seemed drunk enough and said he was looking for Mandy.”
“I’d already been with him,” Mandy said, “and I was very disappointed when I came back to find him gone. And I’m very disappointed now to find out he’s a Fed.”
Fehr looked at Mandy. “What was he like when you were with him?”
“He was very tense. Something else was on his mind. It took me awhile to get him to relax and even when he did…it was like he checked out completely.” She paused. “Strange. Such a handsome man too, so much potential…”
“You can bet he’s seen things here today and he probably found stuff in the study,” Dale said. “We have to take care of him the way we took care of Jacy.”
“We can’t kill a Fed,” Fehr said. “And what happened to Jacy was an accident!”
“An unfortunate, yet needed accident. Mr. Maxwell’s gonna have to suffer a very unfortunate, yet needed accident.” Dale stepped closer to Fehr and his voice lowered to a serious tone. “And this time, you better let me take care of it. Letting the boyfriend take care of Jacy was a dumb, dumb mistake.”
Fehr sighed. “What are you going to do?”
“You just let me take care of it. By this time tomorrow, he’ll be gone.”
**** **** ****
The sun was sinking lower in the western sky as MaryAnne drove the Grand Prix north out of Atlanta. It was 7:40. Bill was quiet for a few minutes, leaning his head back and breathing deeply to try to quell the nausea. It wasn’t working.
“Fehr…is in to some nasty stuff, MaryAnne,” he said, figuring to distract himself from his ill feeling. “I don’t mean just the extra partying going on, I mean businesswise too.”
“How’d you find that out?”
“I snooped.” He opened his eyes and looked over at her.
“Is that how you found out about the other party going on in the house?”
“Which did you get mixed up with? The chemical or the physical?”
Bill’s nausea got worse. “The…physical…” he admitted. He watched her for a reaction and saw something, briefly, within her expression as she watched the road, but she was otherwise all business.
MaryAnne sensed the pause. “Go on…” she said.
Bill drew a ragged breath. “Fehr had a meeting with Peter Nelson. Nelson’s a known dope dealer, I busted one of his operations once, long time ago…He saw me.”
“Did he recognize you?”
“Yeah…I played it dumb like I didn’t know him but I don’t think it worked. Anyway, uh, the meeting was in a study in another section of the house, near where…this other stuff was going on. I had a chance for an excuse to stick around that…part of the house…so I…I took it…”
“And you were able to get into the study?”
“After their meeting, yeah. He keeps a running ledger on his dope shipments, even marks his damn calendar. I also think….Jacy might have been killed there….”
“You do?” MaryAnne looked over at Bill and seeing he was looking much more pale. “Bill?”
“Honey….pull over here, I’m gonna….be sick…”
MaryAnne immediately pulled over to the breakdown lane and slowed down. Bill had the door open before the car came to a complete stop. He stumbled out of the car and made it to the metal barrier, leaned over it and retched.
MaryAnne put the sedan in park and shut the engine down. She leaned over to the glove box to pop it open and found what she figured to find; napkins from the Varsity. She grabbed a handful and climbed over the console of the Grand Prix, getting out the open passenger door.
She came up beside Bill and quietly handed him a couple of napkins. He took them, thankful and wiped his mouth. MaryAnne put a comforting hand on his back as he breathed deeply, the worst of it seeming to have passed. He stayed like that for another minute or so to be sure and then stood up straight.
“Feel better?” she asked.
“A little bit…” He took another napkin from her, wrapping his used one in it. “Thanks,” he said.
“How much did you drink?”
“Not enough, apparently.”
“Was it something you ate?”
“Maybe....” He sat against the railing and looked at MaryAnne. He shook his head. “No, I wish it was from drinking too much or something I ate, but it’s not.”
“Is it…because of what you did?”
He met her gaze. Yes. What happened with Mandy was “business” and was an empty pleasure. The woman he truly longed for was standing right in front of him. “MaryAnne, I’m sorry…”
His apology confused her. “Bill, you don’t have to apologize. Not to me. You did what you had to do…”
He shook his head. “Doesn’t make it right,” he said. “It sure as hell doesn’t make it right.”
MaryAnne sat against the railing next to him. “Bill, what could you do? It’s not like you killed somebody to get in to that study. You used your…um…natural talents for the situation.”
He chuckled ruefully.
“Unless,” MaryAnne continued, “you’re gonna tell me you forced yourself on someone…”
“No,” he said immediately. “No, it wasn’t like that. It was all consensual, it was all adult.”
“She was over 18?”
“Then why are you feeling so…guilty?”
“Because…” Bill looked at MaryAnne, meeting her gaze. “…I had somebody else on my mind…”
His dark eyes searched hers. MaryAnne was trapped by his deep stare, pulled in by his vulnerable look. There was no mistaking who he had on his mind and it both thrilled her and made her uncomfortable. She lowered her gaze awkwardly.
“The worst of it,” he continued, “was seeing you in that gilded house of madness. MaryAnne, there were young girls in some of those rooms who were in situations they did not want to be in. I can’t help but wonder what the exact circumstances were with Jacy Thomas’s death. I can’t help but think, now, that it could have been some drugs that were too much for her, or an act that went too far. Then seeing you in there just…” he looked away and spoke quietly, barely above the roar of the six lanes of traffic whizzing by them, “…tore me to pieces…”
MaryAnne heard what he said and realized he was saying a lot. There was a lengthy lull between them, filled only with the sounds of the cars racing past them on the interstate. She didn’t know how to respond, or if she should. There were too many jumbled struggling thoughts in her head.
Bill looked back to her when she hadn’t spoken. MaryAnne glanced up at him and suddenly, the words were there.
“I’m glad you were there,” she said.
So was he. “Yeah…” he said.
“Despite all the hell you went through.”
Bill gave a snort.
“You said you think she was killed in Fehr’s study. What makes you say that?”
Bill slipped his fingers into his shirt pocket and retrieved the diamond earring he had found. He took MaryAnne’s hand beside him and gently put the evidence into her palm. “I found this...” he said. “When Jacy was found in Atlanta, she was wearing a $4000 diamond choker necklace and one diamond teardrop earring just like that.”
“Yeah. There’s a piece of furniture gone from the room too, the carpet still shows marks. They moved things around to try to hide it. When I moved the furniture back I found a blood stain and a stray glass shard. There’s one end table with a glass top. I suspect there were two at one time. I can theorize how she died, but what I don’t know is what led up to it all.”
MaryAnne handed the earring back to him. “Do you think Fehr killed her?” she asked.
Bill tucked the earring back into his pocket. “I dunno. Everything I’ve gotten so far is she was having an affair with him and he was promising her the moon. Unless she found out she was getting more than she bargained for and threatened to go to the cops…and even then I can’t imagine him doing the deed himself.” Bill sighed. “I gotta shut this guy down. I don’t have evidence that he killed Jacy himself, but he has to be stopped before more young innocent girls get messed up because of him.”
“Well, you’re not gonna do it here on the side of I-75,” she said. “Let’s get back to Hazzard and get you put back together.” She stepped away from the railing and touched his arm. He reached to take her hand and was happy to hold it briefly as they stepped back to the Grand Prix. A moment later they pulled away, resuming the drive back north to Hazzard.