EXT. SIDEWALK. DAY.
Holly paid the driver as she got out of the cab, and then did a double take. She hadn’t known there were still apartments like this. There was a large cloth overhang from the entrance to the edge of the sidewalk, there was a doorman in livery who looked like he’d stepped out of a 1940’s film and there was even a woman emerging from the building wrapped in a mink stole. Holly almost laughed aloud; this seemed exactly the kind of place Evelyn would live.
Holly had woken up early, the events from last night’s after-party still running through her head. After Peter had left Evelyn had stayed by her side most of the evening keeping her company, but she had continued to refuse to discuss him. Alan had eventually come over having, as he put it, done his duty, and the three had spent a pleasant evening together. Occasionally people would drift over to congratulate Alan and he introduced them all to Holly. She had lost count of the people she’d meant, some with names she recognized, some not, but all of them important based on the little notes Evelyn whispered into her ear.
It had been a very pleasant evening, but Peter was still bothering her. She could tell there was something she didn’t know, something she was apparently supposed to know, and also that he had been very upset last night. She had lain awake this morning trying to figure it out. She had considered calling him but thought better of it. For some reason she felt reluctant to talk to him at the moment. At last she had pulled herself out of bed, gotten dressed and grabbed the address Evelyn had given her when they had gone out for drinks Holly’s first day on set.
As Holly entered the apartment building, she looked around in awe. The lobby was large, with high ceilings, intricate woodwork and expensive furniture. The desk clerk on duty looked at her speculatively, clearly not certain that Holly belonged there, and beckoned her over.
“May I help you?” the woman asked.
“I’m here to see Evelyn Martin. I work with her.”
“One moment please.” The woman picked up a phone and dialed an extension. Holly could hear the buzz of the phone ringing several times before at last a muffled voice answered. “I’m sorry to bother you Ms. Martin. There’s a young woman down here asking for you. She says she’s a coworker.” There was a pause. “Holly Woods?…mmhmm, yes…alright.” The desk clerk hung up the phone and gestured towards the elevators. “Ms. Martin says to go up. Top floor, her door will be right in front when you come out.”
“Thank you.” Holly crossed the lobby.
Ten minutes later Holly found herself on the twenty-fifth floor, ringing Evelyn’s doorbell. There was no response. Holly waited a couple of minutes and then rang again. She heard a distant voice calling something that sounded like ‘one moment’. Five minutes later the door was opened.
Evelyn was wrapped in a silk dressing gown and looked a little harried but greeted Holly with a warm smile.
“Holly! I’m so glad you took me up on my offer to drop by sometime. A very pleasant surprise. Do come in.” Evelyn stepped aside and Holly entered.
The apartment was white, very white; the carpets, the walls, the furniture. The carpet was shag and the furniture retro. On the walls were hung movie posters from Evelyn’s career and pictures from her youth, posing with other film stars.
“I’m sorry I’m not dressed yet, it’s very early,” said Evelyn with just a hint of reproach.
“It’s ten o’clock.”
“On a Saturday.”
“Did I wake you up?” asked Holly alarmed.
“No. I was awake. Just not out of bed yet. Now can I get you a drink? I have everything from bourbon to vodka.”
“It’s ten in the morning.”
“I never face Saturday before a respectable drinking hour. Now sit, while I pour myself something. You’re certain you don’t want anything?”
“No thank you.” Holly sat down on a long, low white couch as Evelyn moved towards the drinks table and began to make herself a cocktail. “I’m sorry if I came by too early.”
“Nonsense. I’m glad to see you dear.” Evelyn came over and sat down across from Holly. “But I suspect you didn’t come for the brilliancy of my company. I have a guess why you’re here but why don’t you tell me anyways. How can I help you?”
Holly straightened up and squared her shoulders. “You said last night wasn’t the time or place to go into it. So I want to know now. What is it I’m missing about Peter? What was with the argument he had last night with that man.”
“Yes. Not to mention the way Peter looked and I saw the way other people were looking at him too. And I could have sworn when we arrived last night the photographers took pictures of him. What don’t I know about him Evelyn?”
Evelyn sighed. “I’m not sure I made a strong enough drink for this.”
“I think I have a right to know what everyone else seems to.”
“You’ve must have heard of Peter Glades.”
Evelyn shook her head. “Remind me to buy you a book on modern film history and few star biographies. You need to catch up my dear.”
“So you’re saying he’s more famous then I think? But then why is he doing Crocodiles in Space?”
“The term is ‘has-been’.”
“Oh.” Holly considered this for a moment. “Was he very famous?”
“Very. Haven’t you heard of the film series ‘Son of a Gun’?”
“Oh Holly really,” said Evelyn, “I’m putting you in a film appreciation class. Well it was very popular. It was Peter’s first film role, he was one of the two leads and he was only eighteen. He was lucky; one of those overnight success stories. No one expected it to be such a hit. It followed sons of these two NYPD detectives who solve a crime their fathers are framed for. And Henry played the other son. It was really very natural that the two became friends. Best friends actually. There were four films in the series, huge amounts of promotional tours and premiers and the two were the same age and going through the same shock to the system that instant fame brings; the movies attracted huge amount of fans, and the both become quite popular, with teenage girls particularly. But they’ve made names for themselves since then for more serious fare. Henry has become a very successful director and Peter has an Oscar.”
“Yes,” Evelyn laughed. “Best supporting actor in a major motion picture.”
“And now he’s playing sidekick to space swimming crocodiles?”
“When you fall in Hollywood you can fall quite a long way down.”
Holly thought for a moment. “But that doesn’t explain the fight last night. Those things Henry said to him, how could you say those things to another human being, let alone someone who’s your friend?”
“Well obviously they’re not friends anymore.” Evelyn sighed wearily. “When it comes to the problems between Henry and Peter, I’m afraid it’s mostly human nature. Henry reached a point where Peter either had to be a monster or Henry had to admit he deeply betrayed him. Obviously the former was easier. I’d never say Henry knew he was making the choice for those reasons, but he just couldn’t admit to himself he might have let Peter down. So he decided Peter was the villain.”
“Why? What happened?”
Evelyn took a long drink from her cocktail and gathered her thoughts. “Did Peter ever tell you he was married?”
“Yes. He mentioned it once. But he’s divorced now.”
“Did he say that he was divorced?” Evelyn asked surprised.
“Well…no,” admitted Holly after she thought back. “I suppose not. But he said he had been married and wasn’t anymore. I just assumed. Isn’t he divorced?”
“No. She died.”
“Oh,” said Holly. “That’s awful. And so sad.”
“Yes,” agreed Evelyn. “It was awful. As was she for that matter”
“What?” Holly asked shocked, sure she had misheard.
“Her name was Layla. Peter was so young when he met her, twenty-two. And Layla played him like you wouldn’t believe if you hadn’t seen it. She was quite possibly the most beautiful woman I’ve even seen and I’ve lived in the city of beautiful women for most of my life. One of her grandparents was Spanish, and Layla had this beautiful rich silky black hair against this crystal clear skin and her eyes…her eyes were this violent midnight blue. Once you’d seen them, describing any other eye as midnight blue sounded like hyperbole. She was tall and graceful with this elegance that seemed innate. She found a way to combine exotic with sophistication. It’s a shame she was born in the decade she was, she was made for the silver screen of Hollywood’s golden age.” Evelyn got up and began to make herself a second cocktail. “She was however not so very lovely inside.”
“What do you mean?” asked Holly.
“She was rotten.” Evelyn said bluntly, returning to her seat drink in hand. “She wanted fame, wealth and attention. She was a natural born actress with the way she could use people…it was almost an art form. She could fool just about anyone if she really tried, presenting herself as exactly what they wanted. She saw people in terms of what they could do for her: entertain her, promote her or potentially harm her. She was above all else completely and utterly calculating. That’s why she married Peter. She was a modern day Anne Boleyn, if Anne had cut off Henry the VIII’s head instead of the other way around. She convinced Peter all she wanted was a family and a life with him. It’s not a shock she played him with that tune. When you’re in this business long enough Holly, you start to want something normal, something real and that was exactly what she pretended to offer him.”
Evelyn seemed lost in thought for a moment, playing with her cocktail, swirling it around her glass.
“He fell so completely in love with her,” Evelyn said, breaking her reverie. “They were married six months after he met her. There were a few warnings from friends, people said they were too young, one or two even said he didn’t know the real Layla, but he couldn’t hear it. A couple of months after the marriage she persuaded him to get her a part in his newest film. She said it would mean they could spend more time together on set. And he really did believe, the poor dear, that the only reason she asked was to be with him. But it was a little harder to believe when she was cast as the lead in a second movie, one Peter wasn’t in. But, not so coincidentally, it did happen to be directed by the same man who director the first one.”
Holly frowned. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying Layla didn’t stop at just using her husband. She used anyone who could give her what she wanted. When Peter found out it shattered him. There was a picture in the paper.”
“She cried. Really that woman was remarkable the way she could just turn on the water works. She wept and begged him to forgive her. Pleading it was one mistake, one time, one moment of stupidity and it would never happen again. And he believed her.”
Holly began to automatically smooth her hair back, a nervous habit when she was worried or upset. When Evelyn had first explained about Peter’s previous career Holly had been surprised he’d never mentioned it. It was beginning to make sense now though. Who’d want to relive a marriage like that, even if it were only to talk about it?
“He believed her that time,” Evelyn continued. “And he believed her the time after that. She kept crying and she kept promising it would never happen again. Sometimes a completely sensible person will meet someone and fall in love and their brain just turns off. It’s the same toxic devotion that leads to a woman believing her man each time he swears he’ll never hit her again. I suppose I can’t really blame Peter for that blind stupid belief each time Layla swore it was the last. I went down that road myself once. If you ever love so completely and trust so explicitly…you’d better hope they deserve that faith Holly. I was lucky in that it never made the papers. It was the height of my fame and no one ever knew. But Peter didn’t escape that. Layla’s affairs were splashed across the headlines and Peter became a joke. Everyone in Hollywood knew, the tabloids knew, and eventually Layla stopped crying, stopped promising Peter it wouldn’t happen again. She told him to get over it, accept it, that it was what it was. She openly flirted with men in front of him and didn’t hesitate to tell him when she was going out with someone else, sometimes people he was working with. She had gotten what she wanted out of Peter and didn’t care anymore what he thought or what he did. All he was worth to her anymore was the fun of hurting him.”
“Why didn’t Peter leave her?” asked Holly.
“It’s very easy to say that to someone else,” said Evelyn, looking at Holly kindly, “You’re young and I don’t expect you to understand. It’s so much harder when it’s you, when you’re the one in love. And Peter was in love. Even when she was breaking his heart again and again and humiliating him for the world to see…Peter loved Layla. It can take so long to give up hope in a relationship. You always want to believe that the other people will change. That they’ll stop. You tell yourself that side of them…isn’t the real them. You make excuses. You bargain and compromise. And then you look back and ask if you give up now what was all the pain for?”
Evelyn stopped speaking and looked away towards the windows, seemingly distracted by the view, but Holly had heard the slight break in her voice near the end.
“I’m sorry,” said Holly.
Evelyn turned her gaze back to her with a smile. “You don’t have to be Holly. The past is far, far in the past.”
The two women sat in silence for several minutes, one unsure what to say the other remembering.
“I don’t understand something,” said Holly suddenly, “Everything you’ve told me, it just makes me feel sorry for Peter. None of it explains why Henry, a man who you say used to be his friend, would be angry at him.”
“That’s because there’s more.” Evelyn drained her glass and then squarely met Holly’s eyes. “Layla was murdered. And Peter might have done it.”