INT. EVELYN’S APARTMENT. (CONT’D).
Holly sat for a moment, nonplussed. She had to have heard Evelyn wrong. Definitely, that was the only logical explanation.
Oddly, Holly found herself laughing. “I think I misheard you,” she explained hastily, as Evelyn looked at her with confusion. “I thought you said murdered.”
“I did,” said Evelyn.
Holly instantly stopped laughing and stared wide-eyed, across at the woman. “That’s absurd.”
“It’s true though. If you don’t believe me you can find it online yourself very easily. It was about five years ago.”
Holly blinked for several seconds, staring and then said quietly. “I think I’ll have a drink after all.”
Evelyn nodded and moved back over to the drinks table and began to mix another two cocktails. Neither spoke again till she had finished and returned with the drinks, handing one over to Holly.
“Peter couldn’t have done it,” said Holly at last, “He’s nice and friendly. He’s not the kind of man that would murder his wife. The idea is just silly.”
Evelyn shrugged. “You didn’t know him back then. Layla had shattered him.”
“You can’t really think he did it, do you?” asked Holly.
“I honestly don’t know. The police did. He was arrested and tried.”
“But he must have been cleared since he’s not in prison.”
“The jury did say not guilty. But in the court of public opinion I’m afraid he was very much convicted. It was quite the Hollywood scandal. It was in the papers and tabloids, made news channels.”
“But that has to be wrong. He didn’t do it…did he?” asked Holly suddenly doubting.
“I really couldn’t say. But to coin a popular phrase I’ve used in quite a few movies, the evidence was all circumstantial.”
“What was the evidence?”
“Darling it was so long ago and I wasn’t particularly involved in it. I knew them both but after Layla death I didn’t see Peter at all.”
Holly continued to look at her expectantly.
“Oh very well,” Evelyn sighed, “I do remember a lot of it, everyone kept talking about it till I became quite sick of the subject. I suppose the first thing against Peter was that there was obviously a motive. There was no secret there, and then the night before she died, they had a really public row. It was the first time that I know of that Peter had actually yelled at her. It was at a charity event and halfway through they were suddenly both screaming at each other. It was very strange in retrospect. You would have thought they would always have been at one another’s throats but they weren’t. Layla didn’t care enough to fight and Peter… this was really just the first time, at least in public that he had put his foot down. And it was huge. I was at the event but not at their table, I was sittings halfway across the other side of the room and I could hear them over the orchestra, they were that loud. Everyone was looking. At one point she turned to walk away and he grabbed her arm and wrenched her back. Later the prosecuting attorney described it as physical assault.”
“What were they fighting about?”
“Something to do with moving. Layla wanted them to move to New York. And oddly enough that seemed to become the last straw for Peter.”
“How did the fight end?”
“Security came over and the two ended up leaving, but separately.”
“And the next day Layla died?”
“Yes. She was shot in their apartment which leads to the next part that doesn’t look very good for Peter. He came back to the apartment building at 5:15. There was a camera on the entrance that confirmed that. He then says he walked to over to the elevators, changed his mind and took the stairs. The desk clerk said he saw Peter go to the elevators and thought he saw him get on, but he did admit when cross examined that he couldn’t be sure and might have just assumed Peter got on because he always took the elevator. Peter said he had taken the stairs because he had wanted to delay seeing Layla. He said he had gotten home after her she was asleep last night and left early in the morning, so the two hadn’t talked since the argument and he was putting it off.
“Whether he took the stairs or not turned out to be rather crucial. A loud noise, believed to be the shot, was heard three minutes later by a neighbor. I don’t remember how they made all the exact proofs with the time, but I do recall they proved that, if he took the elevator, he would have gotten to the apartment just in time to shoot her or to arrive on the scene very shortly afterwards. But he didn’t call 911 until 5:30. They lived on the twenty-fifth floor, if he wasn’t anxious to see her he would have walked slowly, so by taking the stairs the timing would make sense. But if he took the elevator, it seems unavoidable that he killed her.”
“Weren’t there any other cameras in the building to show which he took?” asked Holly.
Evelyn shook her head. “There were only cameras on the entrances and exits. It was an apartment building meant for celebrities and we value our privacy. But the cameras that were there, showed another problem for Peter. No one else exited the building that was a viable suspect. So if no one left, and Peter wasn’t the killer, what happened to the real one? It looked bad.”
“But they didn’t convict him.”
“No,” Evelyn agreed, “He had a very good lawyer. A very expensive one. The gun was the real flaw in the case. The police were never able to find it. It was Layla’s gun, which looked very bad for Peter, since it would have been easy for him to get ahold of it. But the police couldn’t find it. And since they knew Peter hadn’t left the building, they knew if he had used it, it had to still be on the premises. Assuming he had killed her, he then had twelve minutes to hide it before he called 911. Not a great deal of time and I heard they scoured the entire apartment building more than once looking for the weapon. And then there was also the matter of the finger prints.”
“What finger prints?”
“There were some finger prints in the living room, which was where Layla was killed, and they were never able to match them with anyone, so Peter’s lawyer argued they probably belonged to the killer.”
Holly sighed heavily. It all seemed so unreal hearing about it. She knew she hadn’t known Peter very long, but the idea that someone she counted as a friend, had been through all this, was an idea she found incredibly sad.
“There was something else,” said Evelyn hesitantly. “They found during the autopsy that Layla was pregnant.”
“What?” Holly asked, horrified.
“Yes. Peter said he had no idea. The prosecutors said it was just more motive. They ran DNA tests and proved it was Peter’s child but they argued that Layla could have told him and he became convinced it was another man’s and he became furious killed her. I’ve heard that it was when he learned the baby was his that Peter really just turned off. He sat through the entire trial, empty, unmoving. He couldn’t even muster indignation. People read it as defeat, an admission of guilt.”
“Poor Peter…” Holly said, “What if he did kill her and didn’t know about the child? And what if he didn’t kill her and he lost his wife and his baby. It’s awful.”
“It was very sad,” agreed Evelyn. She got up and took Holly’s drink. “I think you could use with another one.”
“So is that why Peter’s career failed?” asked Holly, as she watched Evelyn. “Because people think he killed her?”
“Yes. When Layla died they were half way through filming the fourth Son of a Gun film. After Peter’s trial was over and he was found not guilty the studio made him come back and finish the picture. They’d already spent a lot of money on it and it was too early to tell what audience reaction would be to Peter and they were hoping to salvage the project. That was the final nail in the coffin of Peter and Henry’s friendship. Henry had been at the charity event during Peter’s argument with Layla and he’d been at their table so he was pulled in to testify. Also since he was so close to Peter, he knew a lot about the marriage. The lawyers asked him about all of it. It didn’t end up painting a very good picture for Peter and was the main testimony used to prove motive.
“And then at the end, they asked him, if in his personal opinion, after everything that had happened, did he think Peter had seemed angry enough during the argument that he would have been emotionally capable of turning violent…and Henry said yes. I’ve heard horror stories of him and Peter working together on set after that trial. Peter felt Henry had basically said he believed him to be guilty, and he was already going through a horrible time. So one thing lead to another and things devolved to the point where the two could barely speak to each other without arguing and they apparently both mastered the art of passive aggression to amazing degrees. I’ve met crew members, who had to work in African rain forests during mosquito season, filmed through hurricanes and had production in Mexico disturbed by gun fights, who have said that their single worse filming experience was Son of a Gun 4.
“On top of all of that the studio then forced the two do promotion together. Talk shows and interviews were already going to be awful for Peter and then making him go through it with Henry,” Evelyn rolled her eyes, “I really don’t know what the studio was thinking. It seems often that the men put in charge of doing the thinking are the ones that seldom believe in actually using their brains. And it all culminated in one epic night of live television where Peter snapped and broke Henry’s nose. Unsurprisingly the movie proceeded to flop spectacularly and Peter was dropped from every other project he had pending. Since then it’s been TV movies and bit parts.”
Evelyn let out an exhausted sigh. “And that is really everything that I know Holly. Now, let’s drop the subject and you agree to have breakfast with me.”
Distractedly, Holly agreed. As Evelyn whisked away to her bedroom to dress, Holly was left alone pondering. She knew she’d have to talk to Peter on Monday. She just wasn’t sure what she was going to say.