Castle Roland

On The Web

by Jack Scribe, of Honored Memory


Chapter 8

Posted: N/A

Dial M For Movie Magic

by Jack Scribe

Monday afternoon

There was a flood of new people for Thad to meet around the studio. After HR had processed all the necessary personnel paperwork, Doug accompanied him to the producer's suite of offices so the 'suits' and all the various assistants would know the director's point man. Thad would be the runner between the two entities - business and creative - through all phases of production. The afternoon staff meeting in the trailer pulled together all the key members of the film crew and gave Thad a chance to meet the filmmaking team. His introduction was the first item of business on the agenda and Doug asked Thad to give everyone a brief rundown of his CV. He made no mention of Harvey or Frat Loft.

Of particular interest to Thad - in addition to identifying the cinematographer, production designer, costume designer and script editor - was the first assistant director. The first AD, Charlie Rosen, would be Thad's supervisor for the next six months. 'Charlie's probably around 30,' Thad guessed when they shook hands. Although they were about the same height, Charlie was stockier and his buzzed, dark hair was receding. Thad felt an intensity about the slightly older man's manner that telegraphed intellect, order and efficiency. However, as the meeting progressed, Charlie projected a warmth and displayed a sly sense of humor that brought balance to his personality. Thad made quite a few notes based on the questions his new boss brought up as each man discussed their progress on the timeline. 'These are my gofer bullet points,' he thought as he scribbled away, 'that I need to get down pat.'

Thad knew that their first tasks would include breaking down the script into shot-by-shot storyboards and creating an overall shooting schedule. Once production began, he would make sure all of Charlie's marching orders were carried out. Thad's primary responsibility as second AD was to create and monitor the daily call sheet - a document detailing daily filming logistics, which was then distributed to cast and crew. He would oversee all the movements of the cast, ensuring that the principal actors were in make-up, in wardrobe, and standing by on the set at the correct times. 'I hope there's no prima donna types I'm going to have to worry about,' he thought. He still had a bad taste from Rory pushing his buttons.

After the meeting, Thad and Charlie left the trailer and entered the dimly lit, cavernous, Sound Stage 14. Carpenters were busily constructing sets to represent the interior rooms of the main character's suburban "film" home. Exterior scenes would actually be shot around Chicago in the fall - something on which Doug had insisted - rather than using the back lot or local L.A. neighborhoods.

As they walked around the sound stage, Charlie elaborated highlights of his NYU Film School background, television experience and feature film career stepping-stones. Except for Charlie having a wife and two kids, the two men were very similar, and Thad knew he'd gain much from this guy who was seven years his senior. 'I'm going to absorb as much knowledge as Charlie will release,' he decided as they roamed amongst the workers framing the set. Both parties were taking the first fledgling steps of developing a professional relationship and playfully peppered each other with light, humorous side-comments interspersed throughout their more serious dialogue.

Charlie waved at a couple of the guys but quietly suggested that it was best to stay clear of the construction area as they walked away. "Number one, it's all about turf. You and I are representing Doug. Being too visible during the construction might be misconstrued as getting our noses into the set designer's business. Then there's the union and all that stuff. I learned early on to be respectful of the trades. They love to play with someone new if there's any sign of haughtiness. Best to be friendly but in a business-like manner."

"'s classic Spielberg 101," Thad replied as he thought about the legendary director. "I understand that when he started out at Universal, everyone picked up on his raw desire to learn and fell over themselves to teach the rookie. Just so ya know, I'm here to do a good job and be a sponge...whatever experience you'll share with me." He felt confident that Charlie could show him several things in addition to what he could pick up by watching Doug. "If I can be first AD when I'm your age, I'll consider myself fortunate."

"Hey, come on. I just turned 30." Charlie laughed and opened the door for them to exit the sound stage. "But I hear ya. There's a very good chance that I'm going to direct an 'indy' after we wrap this film. And for the record, I think DiMarco is someone we can both learn from. For Doug to win an Oscar at 34 isn't shabby."

"And if this film is looked on as a contender, so much the better." Thad was very relieved to be part of a first rate professional effort rather than what he had just experienced in the Valley. "But he told me at my interview that we needed to balance artistic creativity against the film's viability to make money."

"Doug's been very specific that the only turkey he only wants to see at Thanksgiving is the one ready for carving on the table," Charlie replied with a chuckle. "It's a good script and the right actors have been cast. But you never know what'll happen between the pre-production now and the editor's cut. After final edits and color correction, the director's cut is finally handed over to marketing; then you cross your fingers and say 'mazel tov'."

"Or a few 'Hail Mary's.' When do you think the film will be released?" Thad knew that most of the pre-production tasks had been completed and they'd be ready to start shooting in two months - the middle of July.

"If it's a real gobbler - and even the best filmmakers aren't immune - our picture will get the bum's rush and a quiet release with nada marketing dollars." Charlie held his nose for emphasis.

"Or even worse...directly to DVD," Thad replied with a gagging noise while he held his throat.

"Hardly goin' to happen. Seriously, the big questions are these: can we finish production on schedule and how much post-production time will be needed? Doug has a reputation for bringing in his movies on budget and on schedule, so we'll wrap up shooting by the end of the year. If he gets the director's cut finished by next summer, it should be able to be released in late fall...roughly a year and a half from now. This timing is especially important if the studio thinks we have a good movie for them to sell."

"So it can be considered for award season," Thad replied as a matter of fact. "That would be super."

"Not shabby at all. By the way, when we are on location in Chicago, I'm going to be director of the second unit. So you and I can collaborate as our own team when we're out there."

"Really? What a terrific experience that'll be." Thad put on his sunglasses as they stepped back onto the narrow streets between the sound stages. He looked at Charlie and decided it was now time to reveal a bit more about himself. "I've got a good feeling about working with you, Charlie. But I need to clear the air about something."

"That you're a serial murderer or something more evil?" Charlie grinned and put on his shades. "Just joking."

"Yikes, nothing that serious." Thad swallowed hard and felt his stomach turn 180 degrees. 'Charlie doesn't know how close he is to recent events,' he thought as he fought hard to maintain composure. "Only that for what it's worth...I'm gay."

"Like that's a big deal in Hollywood or Burbank." Charlie put his arm around Thad's shoulder and squeezed. "What and who you diddle is none of my concern as long as it's not a fellow worker. In fact, I'd be honored to fix you up with my younger brother. He's always bitching about the lack of good men but unfortunately he's back in Brooklyn. And with Doug, sexual orientation is certainly not an issue. If I had a boyfriend like he does, I might consider playing on your team."

"What are you saying?" Thad decided to play somewhat coy and added, "That Doug has a boyfriend or you're considering a bi-lifestyle?" He smiled and winked.

"That was just a figure of speech cuz I'm a hopeless hetero. What I meant is that the worst kept secret in Hollywood concerns Doug and Brad Williams being a couple. But with Brad's 'Oprah' money and their power, no one is interested in screwing with them."

"Actually, I do remember something about Brad. He kinda came out in an interview with some magazine recently. From what I remember, he said he never considered his private life part of a press relations program but acknowledged he was one-half of a partner relationship. No names, though." Thad knew there was a fine line between being part of a conversation and coming off as a Chatty Cathy. 'I think I'm in safe territory,' he decided as they approached the trailer, 'and I'm not going to mention that I've already met Brad.'

"So, it's no biggie, Mr. Brooks," Charlie said as he opened the trailer door. "Let's set up your work space so we can tackle some issues. And I need to review our part of the timeline and the budget."

They entered the office and immediately decided to move their small desks to face each other so they could communicate with each other more easily. Doug was at a big meeting in the producer's office and had taken his personal assistant along. With no interruptions over the next couple of hours, Charlie gave Thad a broad, productive overview of all the planning documents and files. By 4:30 p.m., Charlie was satisfied they had accomplished a lot and decided that he needed to run a few personal errands. Before leaving, he told Thad that it was going to be a fun film - albeit with hard work - for both of them.

Thad had just finished reorganizing another copy of the script into the planned shooting sequence when Doug returned with a bulging canvas bag.

"Still here? It's almost six." Doug set down his bag and walked over to Thad.

"Charlie and I accomplished a lot today and I wanted to read over your notes on the script one more time. But I probably should take off and go home for dinner."

"I've got an even better idea. If you don't have pressing plans, join me. Brad and I usually have dinner at a restaurant in Beverly Hills on Monday nights. Our friend, Mike, is the owner and we've all been buddies for quite a while. And since Brad is up in San Francisco on business, I'm flying solo."

"Mike? Mike Cole who owns TJ's?" He had seen Mike Cole's picture in magazines greeting various celebrities and on television when the restaurant hosted post-Oscar and Emmy parties. He was also aware that Monday night at TJ's was now the premiere 'must be seen' place in town for industry movers and shakers.

"The very same - on Canon Drive. We could freshen up and meet at the restaurant around 7:00. However, what you're wearing would be fine. Mike's partner, Dave Swenson, may be joining us. Dave is with the same law firm as Brad."

"Let me go home so I can put on my basic black," Thad replied with a snicker. The male dressing up rule of thumb in L.A. for his generation was: when in doubt, wear a black shirt, black pants and black shoes.

"Fair enough. Why don't you scoot and I'll bail out in a few minutes." Doug picked up his book bag and walked toward his office. "By the way, I'm really pleased that all that business from this past weekend is behind us. I'm depending on you to do a great job."

Thad smiled and said, "Thanks, Doug. I'm going to give you my 110% effort."

The unexpected confrontation in the concealed warehouse studio behind the Frat Loft offices had left Oleg physically exhausted and mentally spent. Therefore, the decision to detour home for a quick shower and change of clothes proved to be wise. He needed a chance to re-group while he freshened up, and wanted to be wearing a jacket and tie - the east coast, pinstriped partners had scheduled a videoconference.

He arrived at AOI's Century City offices a little before 2:00 p.m. and immediately entered the vortex of activity. The receptionist said that everyone was waiting for him in the operations center. He nodded and walked into the office area after the walnut-veneered ArmorCore wall electronically unlocked and slid open. In the center of the office floor was an architecturally sculptured glass, steel and stainless staircase - a functional work of art - that everyone used to move between the two floors. In fact, except for a secure elevator for the handicapped, it was the only way to get to the upper floor that housed the computer tech department and operations center.

After having his right index finger scanned by the biometric reader at two more entry stations, he finally arrived outside the ops center. He pressed his left hand on a larger biometric reader panel and waited for the small red light to turn green. Oleg then opened the door and briefly gazed at the large, ceiling-lit David Hockney swimming pool painting on the opposite paneled wall. He nodded to the other men already sitting around the granite-topped table with their laptops in front of them as he walked into the inner-sanctum of AOI's West Coast Ops Center. Three flat-screens were mounted on the wall, with digital clocks underneath.

On the center screen, he recognized the 'mother ship' in Washington, D.C., with the managing director flanked by key department heads. The left screen projected a headshot of Dex Tate in AOL's London office and the right screen showed the face of someone he assumed was linked from Colorado Springs. 'Probably our guy in a hotel room using a cam,' he thought as he set down his laptop on the table and eased into the chair that had been saved for him. He flipped open his computer, powered up and was glad it wasn't him huddled in a Holiday Inn Express room.

"Mr. Petrov, thanks for coming in after such a productive morning," came the deep voice of Jerry Sebastian through the ceiling speakers. He was the corporate managing partner for AOI. "That was fine work."

"Thank you, Sir. I hope the data sent has been helpful?" Oleg looked into the camera above the center screen and smiled. It was customary to start off videoconference meetings with headquarters with a formal bearing.

"Our techs are working closely with CART and the BKA in Berlin. I'm just awaiting official word that the evidence is solid enough to issue search and arrest warrants. The initial estimation is that it's a slam dunk."

"We lucked out, Jerry." Oleg had complete faith in the FBI's CART - Computer Analysis and Response Team. When he'd been an agent, the state-of-the-art organization was always very resourceful. He knew the Germans were just as effective.

"While we're waiting for the final analysis to come in, give us a rundown of what happened earlier today."

This was an ideal situation - the ability to tell his story, at one time, in front of everyone who mattered. Oleg cleared his voice and, for background, gave a brief, thumbnail accounting of his original, unrelated reason for investigating a simple murder. Rather than dropping Brad Williams' name, he mentioned that he was working pro bono for a valued client. Everyone in the teleconference translated the term 'valued' to be a profitable billing history, a close friendship or a combination of both and didn't question the relationship. He avoided the setup of Thad and the suspected dark, evil deeds of Rory - this was not germane to the AOI investigation. Instead, he focused on the search of the Frat Loft office earlier in the day. By the time he had finished, he noticed several heads on the screens and in the ops center bobbing with approval. Dex seemed to be listening and typing into his laptop at the same time. Jerry Sebastian had just picked up a telephone receiver and was intently listening. Everyone politely waited until the boss hung up.

"Gentlemen, I've just been informed by the FBI that the Colorado Springs authorities have been issued warrants by an impartial judge. As you are aware, that was no small task." The job was more complicated than usual because of the large evangelical fundamentalist community in that town. More than a few members of the bench were affiliated with the Temple of Salvation mega-church. "The same thing is happening in Los Angeles, and BKA is working closely with the police in Dresden to coordinate arrests. Mr. Tate, have I left anything out?"

"I'm online with my contact at BKA Berlin. Not only are arrests in progress, but also the Polish and Czech Federal Police have been brought into the mix. I suspect that we'll see some additional results in Wroclaw and Prague by daybreak. MI6 and Scotland Yard are plugged in, too. I'm just waiting for confirmation that the U.K. is in play. Our British friends have a real hardon for catching the Russian mob with their hands in the preverbal cookie jar."

"You have a real way with words," Jerry replied with a laugh. Dex had developed a reputation for flawless case management and a subtle, bent sense of humor in staff conferences. "It appears that we have a success on our hands."

"Jerry, are press relations going to be initiated right away?" Oleg asked. The original plan was for AOI's PR agency to leak details about religious broadcaster Vincent Patrick's involvement with the child pornography distribution. His Voice of the Risen website was a related, but independent part of the mega-church. Additionally, the targeted congressman would be outed as a member of an active porn subscriber group. The right wing representative always voted against legislation that supported gay agendas and was always good for a bigoted sound byte on cable news.

"That should occur within 24 hours. Our first concern is to have the local authorities conduct searches and make the arrests." Jerry paused for a moment as someone approached from behind and spoke to him. He nodded and gestured for the man to join the group at the table. "This is Jim Wengert from computer analysis. He can give you a brief picture of what they found on the files. The evidence, I'm told, is quite compelling and still being analyzed."

"Thank you, Jerry." Jim arranged his paperwork to one side and set up his laptop. "I'm going to walk you through what we found but I'll be off-camera so you can see the sordid details." The middle screen changed and the homepage of the Temple of Salvation appeared. "Hypertext links. That's what we discovered. Patrick hi-jacked a legitimate site and embedded hypertext links hidden in the image of the Temple's homepage."

The arrow image moved up to a cross in the upper right-hand corner and everyone could hear the faint clicking action. An hourglass icon appeared next to the arrow and rotated a couple of times as the simulated sand moved to the bottom of the virtual glass container. The hourglass disappeared and a new screen appeared with boxes that requested a password. "This is a secure web page that opens a web site where there are many other pages," Jim explained with a crispness in his voice. "This is where Vincent Patrick comes in. We can prove the web site was managed from his office computer that's also the web server. This web server manages and maintains web sites that sell subscriptions to view pornography of under-aged children. We suspect that he has more than a couple of his associates working on this enterprise. However, there is no doubt that the computers and porn operations are located in the Voice of the Risen studios."

On the screen, several dots - seven in all - were typed in. "This sign-in procedure provides security from anyone hacking in, altering it or crashing it. Vincent hacked into the Temple server and assumed site-administrator capabilities for the buried web site. Basically, he hijacked the original web site for his commercial, illegal purposes."

"Hijacked?" Jerry Sebastian asked.

"Patrick's paid customers were instructed to go to the Temple homepage and click on the cross icon." Jim paused for a moment before adding, "He used this as a front for his own twisted intentions." There was a double-click on the enter button and a new homepage appeared that was titled Jack and Jill's Playroom with pictures of several faces of young boys and girls. "Once you've passed the security page, all kinds of hidden doors and commands are available...whatever the customer wants. I won't click on the gets pretty graphic. Patrick used the page as a pay-for-view gateway to anything a pedophile would want to see. And I mean, anything. Questions?" The center screen flashed and the Washington conference room re-appeared.

"Yes," Dex replied. "Tate in London. So what you're saying is, they put in a hidden hypertext link, a hot button on the Temple's screen behind the cross. And when it's located and clicked, it will take the user to another web site altogether. Type in the password and the porn site opens. Is that it?"

"In a nutshell," Jim Wengert replied. "This usually is a 'needle in a haystack' situation. We've had cases where we've stumbled onto terrorist websites that were hypertexted into an innocuous chamber of commerce site. However, with the recovered files, we were able to piece everything together. Passwords, locations, names...the whole ball of wax. Separately, we found a history of every credit card that has been used over the past three years to buy the services of this porn website. Looks like there are approximately 22,000 names to research. I've been in constant dialogue with my counterparts at CART, and the FBI is still compiling all the data for further investigation."

"Jim, this is Oleg Petrov in L.A. There's no rush, but anything you can dig up that specifically highlights Harvey Fine - the owner of the computer where these files were found - I'd appreciate a heads up. Our local police and Febbies out here will be working with you for a while." He knew that Lamanna at the LAPD and the local Bureau agents would be banging several heads later today throughout the Los Angeles area. However, he still had unfinished business with the murder investigation.

"I'll have men analyzing the data throughout the night if necessary. We'll probably have more information about Fine in the morning. And CART will be sharing cogent details with us. You're going to be copied on everything, Oleg. Anything else from anyone?" Jim paused and waited before adding, "Then I'm going to get back to the computer lab. Thank you, gentlemen." He nodded, got up from his seat and shook hands with a very visibly pleased managing director.

The meeting ended and everyone was encouraged by the early results. Oleg was 'pumped' and graciously received congratulations from his colleagues. Even after being part of the organization for several years, he always enjoyed a few "atta boys" from the boss. Each key person in the field had serious follow-up work ahead and it was still daylight in most time zones: a little after 3:00 p.m. in L.A., 4:00 p.m. in Colorado Springs, 6:00 p.m. in Washington, D.C. and London had only one hour before a new calendar day arrived. Dex confirmed he would be available in the London office for Oleg's midnight BST call and would have a detailed latest status of the case in his part of the world. In the meantime, Oleg decided to return to his office and contact Andy. 'No reason to bug Lamanna at this point,' he thought. 'Joe's up to his knees in alligators - or Russians - right about now.'

There was no physical evidence that workers had installed cameras in the office. Andy checked out his new co-worker - Gordy Bostwick - casually working on a laptop at the table in the corner of the outer office and looked again around the wall and ceiling surfaces.

"I know something was done in this room cuz I noticed the maintenance truck parked near the studio. But I can't see any evidence of any installation." Andy's eyes moved around to investigate the upper areas of the space before focusing on the luscious addition to the staff. 'Crap,' he observed, 'even with the glasses and geek shirt this guy is yummy.'

"That's the idea. Everything is up and running. My partner is in the truck going through fine-tuning right now. If you look closely in the corners where the ceiling meets the wall you can see small openings. With technology today, our equipment is so miniaturized that the devices are undetectable. As an example, there is a pencil in your cup, along with several Uniballs and Sharpies. The eraser is actually a camera."

"Whoa, I'd better behave myself." Andy smiled at Gordy and wondered if this security specialist might want to un-behave himself after this situation was over.

"There's also good news. I just got an email that said several arrests were going to happen in the L.A. area very soon based on what was discovered here. However, we still don't know who or where all the bad guys are located."

"So, we're not out of trouble, yet? I'm not into pain and trauma," Andy replied, "unless it's light-duty bondage. Just kidding." He tossed out that comment to judge Gordy's reaction. He didn't have to wait long for an answer.

"Into some role playing?" Gordy smiled and raised his eyebrow. "You going to be the slave?"

"Right. In my little harem slave girl silks and nipple tassels." Andy laughed at the image and continued, "Seriously, I'm pretty much an equal-opportunity homo who's pretty versatile...if you get my drift."

"What a great line and I do get your drift. Let's get this assignment completed and then maybe I can explore this versatility with you." Gordy grinned before moving his eyes back to the laptop screen. "In the meantime, I should tell you that my partner in the van outside is able to monitor all visuals and audios via our wireless setup." He pointed to a small earpiece and nodded.

"Gottcha." Andy went back to his QuickBooks site and was entering some payroll information when his office phone rang. He picked up the receiver and said, "FLP office."

"Andy, this is Oleg. Just checking in. By the way, don't wave or anything but I can see Gordy and you very clearly from my office monitors."

"Monitors?" Andy put his hand over the receiver and said to Gordy, "It's Oleg calling and he can see us perfectly."

"Eight, all together. Exterior shots, too. Based on what we found, several arrest warrants have been issued and..." There was a pause in the conversation before Oleg continued, "Don't look up, but tell Gordy you might be having visitors from what I'm seeing in the parking lot. Have him switch over to the security camera monitor screen."

"Oleg said to look at the security monitors on your laptop screen. We apparently have company outside."

"I'm on it. Two men just got out of a Mustang." Gordy typed in a few commands and said, "Just go about your business and look busy. This may be nothing, but be prepared to dive under the desk if things get tough. There isn't time for you to disappear into the other office."

_"Hang up the phone. I've got audio and will call 9-1-1." _

After he returned the receiver to the cradle, Andy looked over at Gordy. The man had slightly pushed away from the table and one hand was not visible. 'Just enough to give him room to move,' he judged, as he moved back a bit too. 'I may have to get under the desk if things get hairy.'

"I'm in contact with my partner outside," Gordy said without looking up from his screen, "just in case we need backup. Oh, there's one more man in their car - sitting in the driver's seat. Here they come. Greet them as you normally would and remember that I'm good at what I do."

Andy pretended to be looking at some documents and waited until the door opened before he looked up. Two thirty-ish men - one tall and heavy set, the other short and wiry with a beard of several days growth - slowly entered the office. They stopped once inside and the larger man closed the door.

"Gentlemen, what can I do for you? This is a business office and is normally open by appointment only. I guess I didn't lock the door when I returned from lunch." Andy's first impression was that these men were used to going where they wanted to, when they wanted to and how they wanted to. 'These dudes are certainly not from California,' he thought, as he looked them over. 'Cheap patterned pants, long-sleeve shirts, and boots.'

"Sorry," the shorter man replied without much conviction. "We look for Fine office." They both stood still and looked around. They glanced at Gordy for a moment and then returned their attention to Andy.

"This is Mr. Fine's office. But, if you haven't heard, he passed away a couple days ago. I'm just the office manager."

"Da, yeah. We know. He have things of ours." The taller man took a step forward and added as he pointed to the closed door behind Andy. "Need to see his office. In there?" The accents verified that both men were foreigners.

"That's really none of your business, Sir. If you'll have your lawyer contact Mr. Fine's lawyer, things can be sorted out." Andy felt tension churning in his body and gasped as the two strangers started walking toward him, with the tall man pulling out a handgun as they advanced. 'Time to disappear,' he thought, as he slid off the office chair, pushed it away and scooted behind the desk - all in one action. There wasn't much protection because of the open-front design but he hoped there would be difficulty if they took a shot. He moved for more cover behind one of the file cabinet supports of the desktop.

"You don't hide too much, fucker. I put bullet up your butt or worse." The swarthy, shorter guy reached behind his back and also produced a weapon. "Get up and open door," he barked as he brought his gun up.

Suddenly, Andy heard two nearly simultaneous gunshots from the corner where Gordy was positioned. He peered around the files and saw the taller man stumble. Blood was streaming from the side of his head as the man collapsed. Andy turned and watched as Gordy quickly jumped from his position behind the table and took aim again. Andy could hear a gunshot from the direction where he thought the second stranger was probably standing but Gordy was still in motion. Two more shots rang out - from Gordy's gun - as the nimble security agent dove to the floor. Andy was morbidly fascinated when he saw the other 'bad guy' fall next to his associate - all now in view from his limited vantage point behind the desk. The shorter of the two was covered with blood and also appeared lifeless.

Gordy performed a fast body twist and roll before coming back up on his feet. He drew a deliberate bead with his weapon as he walked closer to the two men. The taller man was sprawled out, his eyes unfocused. The other man was on his stomach with his mouth splayed in a growing pool of blood and saliva. Gordy kicked away the handgun that was near the first casualty and carefully reached to dislodge the other man's gun from his hand. There was no resistance as he freed the piece. After placing the gun on the floor and pushing it aside, Gordy maneuvered around to check for a pulse. He shook his head negatively and was about to check the larger human hulk when he suddenly became alert. "Incoming...Roger that," he said to his outside contact.

He turned and motioned for Andy to be quiet and get back down behind the cover of the desk file cabinet. Moving like a graceful hunting predator, Gordy returned to the table and waited in a crouching position. He didn't have to wait long. The front door slowly opened partway but didn't continue the swing. A shadow stood motionless.

Andy could hear the door open and saw the combination of outdoor light and the shadow of someone...but nothing else. He decided to rely on Gordy and didn't move an inch. His breathing was rapid and he could feel pangs of fear shooting through his body. His upper lip was quivering and his skin felt very clammy. Suddenly he heard the sound of another person shouting outside and hoped it was Gordy's partner. The shadow finally moved and quickly entered the office.

"Gun down," Gordy yelled, "or you'll join your friends looking for their brains on the floor." The man paused and didn't move. "I'm armed and will give you five seconds to comply." A clunk of metal sounded on the linoleum floor. "Good. Now kick it away and stand with your hands behind your head." There was another pause. "We're good.'s over."

The third man was standing near the door when Andy surfaced. He watched Gordy approaching his prey as the front door opened. The outside member of the AOI security team - an African American who looked more like a Pac 8 tight end - entered and surveyed the situation.

"As you heard, two down terminally and we need to get this character restrained. Oh, that's Andy standing by the desk. He's the good guy. Andy, say 'hi' to the meanest dude north of Compton - Brady Johnson. My partner."

"Hi," was all Andy could say. He was becoming calm enough to notice that Brady sort of resembled a young Denzel Washington. 'They must recruit these guys from some sort of modeling agency that represents security guys,' he thought.

"Nice to meet you. Watched this go down from the van. Intense...maaaan." Brady walked behind the prisoner, roughly grabbed the man's hands and used a strong flex band to secure them into the small of his back. "You...sit down." Brady then wrapped a flex band around the man's ankles.

"Brady, if you'll remain in place, I'll walk Andy over to the other building. He can stay there while the police are here. I just got a 2-minute ETA alert for the police." He turned to Andy and continued, "Why don't you grab your backpack and wait for me outside? I need to confirm one more time that those two are out of the game and don't require EMS. Then we can head down to the studio."

"I'll be out front." Andy took a broad path around the two bodies and didn't look down. He didn't feel too well and thought he might have to heave if he didn't get out of the office quickly.

"Hey, it's all over, champ," Gordy said as Andy approached. "And I haven't forgotten about 'versatility' on another occasion either." He winked and held the door open.

"I feel better already." Andy stopped and looked into the intoxicating, greenish-blue eyes of his protector. "What happens next?"

"The police will conduct an investigation. This is now an official crime scene and will remain so until the investigating officers are satisfied that they've got everything they need. My guess is that they'll release the office tomorrow sometime. I'll make sure a crew comes in and gives this office a good cleaning afterwards."

"Where will I work tomorrow?" Andy asked.

"If you're up to it, maybe you can set up shop temporarily in the studio."

"I'll be okay...I think. I can handle the phones from the studio and do my work on a laptop." Andy was sure he would never feel the same in this office. 'But Gordy will be with me for the rest of the week,' he thought, 'and then I'll see how I feel.'

"Good. You get settled over in the studio building with the rest of the staff, and I'll come get you when the situation mellows out here. Just so you know, the police will want your statement. But we'll get that expedited so you can boogie out of here and go home ASAP."

"Thanks for looking out for me. I'll wait for you in the parking lot." Andy tried to turn on a small smile, without much luck, and walked out of the office. 'What a crazy, complicated day,' he thought as he put on his sunglasses. 'But one good thing has come out of this. I wanna know more about Gordy.' In the distance, he could hear approaching sirens.

No one from the studio was outside and he assumed that the soundproofing of that building had not alerted anyone of the events that had just taken place. Except for one car slowly driving by the entrance to the lot, with someone in the passenger seat taking pictures, the afternoon seemed normal. The dark green sedan stopped and it appeared that the passenger was taking a series of shots - including several of his Honda. 'Oh, crap,' he thought as the unfamiliar car abruptly sped away, 'I'd better tell Gordy about this.' Andy was disappointed that he had only seen the first part of the sedan's license plate.

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