Holly pulled up outside the photography studio and parked her car. She checked the address once more to be sure she was in the right spot and then headed for the large glass front doors.
It was a large wood and steel building with an entrance room lined with large comfortable sofas and at the far end a desk and receptionist. Holly crossed over to the desk and gave her name. The receptionist consulted her computer and then pointed to the left.
“Down the hallway, last door on the right. They’ve just started setting up.”
Holly followed the instructions and headed through the door indicated. She found herself in a large, mostly bare room. There were large windows along one side letting in natural light and along a second side cameras were being set up, all pointing towards a section of wall that had had a white background set up. Two people were up on ladders fiddling with large light fixtures, while the man who appeared to be the photographer was issues orders about cameras. On the opposite side of the room was a row of makeup chairs.
“Excuse me,” a woman approached her. “Can I help you?”
“I’m Holly Woods. I’m here for the photo shoot?”
“Ah,” the woman brightened, “You’re one of the cast members of the film. Brilliant. We’re still setting up, but in the meantime you can go over and get makeup and hair done. Just tell the makeup artist that Bethany sent you over.”
Holly nodded. She crossed the room and stood nervously on the edge of the makeup area, a little uncertain which artist she was supposed to talk to. There was one already working on someone seated in one of the chairs and then another two who were bent over a table full of makeup.
Holly cleared her throat and one of the makeup artists looked up.
“Yes?” she said coming towards Holly.
“Hi. I’m Holly. Bethany sent me over to get makeup and hair done?”
“Oh right. You’re one of the cast members here for the photo shoot. Of course! Have a seat; we’ll get started right away.” She gestured towards the chair next to the person already seated.
Holly sat down and placed her purse under her chair. The artist retrieved a brush from table along with makeup and brought it over, holding it up to compare it with Holly’s face. Holly heard her murmur ‘something darker’ before retreating back to the table.
Holly settled back more comfortably into the chair and glanced over to the woman seated beside her. She wanted to groan. Instead she pulled on a bright smile.
Cynthia glanced out of the corner of her eye towards her. “Holly,” she responded curtly.
Cynthia Tomes had long straight hair which was a dark brown and chestnut eyes. She had an angular face and pale skin, which certainly helped her standout but made it hard to judge whether she was actually pretty or just distinctive.
Working together had been…interesting. Holly wasn’t exactly sure what she’d done wrong, but somehow she always seemed to be rubbing Cynthia the wrong way. She hadn’t had that problem with the other two main cast members, Adam or Frank, and Cynthia hadn’t seemed to dislike them, so Holly knew it was had to personal but couldn’t figure out how.
She remembered Victor’s advice that she figure out a way to get along with Cynthia at least on a professional level and decided now was as good a time as any to start trying.
“How was the rest of your summer?” she asked brightly.
Holly’s makeup artist returned and started applying blush to her cheeks.
“Mine was pretty good. I went to Australia after we finished shooting,” said Holly. “Have you ever been there?”
“No,” said Cynthia curtly.
Holly sighed inwardly and resisted the temptation to roll her eyes.
“So have you done photo shoots before?” she asked, trying again.
“Oh, well maybe you can give me some helpful pointers. I really have no idea what I’m doing here, or what it involves.”
“Of course you don’t.”
“Nothing. Are we done?” asked Cynthia to the woman working on her.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Good.” Cynthia stood up abruptly, and walked away.
Holly let out an exasperated sigh.
Clint drummed his fingers on a side table as he sat in an armchair, his feet up on the coffee table, and watched Peter pace.
“So,” said Clint, “Are we going to wear a whole in my carpet, or are you going to tell me who we’re trying to pin the murder on?”
Peter stopped and shot him a look that looked distinctly like a glare. “If we’re going to work on this together, maybe you could at least pretend to be a bit more open minded?”
“Not my strong suit. Just ask Nikki.”
Peter sat down across from him and squared his shoulders as if preparing for a fight. “Alright. I want you to look for any evidence, photographic preferably, that Layla might have had an affair with Alan Ryder.”
There was a beat.
“Alan Ryder?” Clint raised an eyebrow. “Weren’t you two dating the same woman a little while ago?”
“I was never dating Holly,” said Peter, with an edge to his voice. “We were friends and the tabloids misrepresented it.”
“Really?” Clint leaned his head to one side.
“Really.” There was a beat.
Clint smiled. “Fine. So you want me to look and see if I can find any photos of Alan with Layla? It’s going to tricky since he wasn’t famous then so the photos probably wouldn’t have been worth much compared to ones with people famous at the time.”
“I know they were dating. I have text message sent from her phone to his.”
Clint looked surprised at this but simply asked, “Then why do you need the photos? It sounds like you have your proof.”
“His name isn’t exactly on the texts. All I have is proof that it’s the number he gave when he rented an apartment in our building and then text messages from and to that phone number.”
“Wait. Your building? You mean the same apartment building you and Layla lived in?”
“Was he living there when she was murdered?”
“Huh.” Clint crossed his arms and leaned back.
“Huh?” Peter frowned. “What do you mean by ‘huh’?”
“It’s interesting that’s all.” He shrugged. “Anyways. I’ll look into it. Layla wasn’t particularly secretive in her affairs so there could probably be something.”
Peter nodded. “Good.”
“But,” he said, “I need you to realize I’m helping you to discover the truth. Not to frame an innocent man. I’ve always felt I played a part in destroying your image; I’m not going to make up for that by destroying Ryder’s. Unless I somehow become one hundred percent convinced he’s guilty, I’m not going to stand back and let you throw accusations around. And you have to know even if we do find something it’s not going to be enough. How are some photos of the two together going to convince anyone? As far as everyone, press, public and police care, you’re guilty. And I really don’t see how you think you’ll change that.”
“I’m not trying to accuse anyone. I’m not building a case for the press or the police.”
“Then who are you building the case for? It’s clearly not for you.”
“It just has to convince one person.”
Peter rolled his eyes. “What does it matter?”
“Because I want to know what I’m doing here.”
Their eyes locked onto each other and they sat there, staring across the coffee table at one another, a silent debate raging. Finally Peter seemed to cave.
“Holly. It just has to convince Holly.”
“I thought you said there was nothing in that tabloid story.”
“There’s not,” said Peter. “She and I are friends. I think. But I can’t leave her with him. I don’t need enough evidence to convince the public or talk the police into reopening the case. At this point I couldn’t care less about any of that. I’m done. But I do care about Holly. It just has to convince her.”
Clint considered for a moment and then nodded. “Well that just might be doable.”