Clint shifted through the photographs stacked on the coffee table. They were picture after picture of Layla; at parties, at night clubs, at functions, at galas. He’d pulled everything he could find together and there were boxes scattered around the room with even more of them inside. Occasionally Peter would be in the photos but more often than not she was with another man. How that marriage had lasted as long as it had …Clint shook his head.
There was a ringing and Clint reached over and picked up the phone.
“Clint Morgan speaking.”
“Clint? It’s Nikki!”
“Nik.” He felt himself smile. “How are you?”
“I’m good, but I can’t wait to see you!”
“I’m surprised you’re calling, I thought you had some kind of interview this evening.”
“I do. It’s in an hour but I wanted to talk to you. I miss you.”
“It’s good. The weather’s been terrible; it feels like it’s been pouring all week. But I had some free time the past couple of days and I got to see the city a bit. I went to the top of Willis tower, went to the aquarium, saw some museums. I was invited to a super elite nightclub’s VIP lounge and turned it down because I knew you wouldn’t like it.”
“You’re making me sound very puritanical.”
“Well would you or would you not have wanted me partying at the nightclub?”
“Only because it’s still a little early to test exactly how far your new image has overridden your old image in the minds of your audience.”
“Or you’re just afraid of all the handsome men I’ll meet there,” she teased.
“But how many of them could give you sage career advice?”
“This may come as a shock but not many people look for that in a boyfriend.”
“Really? Well it’s good for me you already turned down the invitation then.”
“They left it open. I could still go. Unless of course I had something better to do, like go out to dinner with you?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Well…I was hoping maybe you’d fly out here tomorrow.” Clint could tell from her voice that she’d been building up to this and it was probably the reason she’d called. “I really miss you. I feel like I’ve barely seen you all summer. In fact I have barely seen you all summer because of this tour. Chicago is lovely and I think you’d love it. There’s a flight leaving LAX tomorrow morning. You’d get here in time for the final show of the concert, we could go out to dinner and then I thought I could get my plane ticket home changed so we’d have a few days in Chicago together.”
There was a long pause.
“Well? What do you think?” Nikki prompted hopefully.
“I…don’t know.” Clint ran a hand through his hair. “It’s just would be very hard.”
“How would it be hard? You just get on a plane and you’re here.”
“No, I mean it would be hard for us to be together in Chicago and going out in public, without it getting into the tabloids.”
“So what?” Nikki almost sounded like she was snapping.
“We agreed when this started that we weren’t ready for our
relationship to become common knowledge.”
“Yes. But that was months ago. Things change. Relationships change.”
“We’ve spent most of our relationship with you off on tour! How could it have had time to change?” he argued.
“Maybe I just don’t understand why it’s so important to you! I mean what is so terrible about being seen with me?”
“Nik, you know that’s not it.”
“Don’t call me that. And what am I supposed to think? The only other interpretation is that you just don’t think I’m worth the bother of the media attention.”
“How do I know that’s absurd?”
Clint sighed in frustration. “Look, could we talk about this when you get back? It’s hard over the phone.”
There was another long pause and then he heard Nikki let out a deep breath. “Sure. I’m sorry. I just-, I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“I’ll see you on Sunday.” She hung up abruptly.
Clint looked at the phone for a minute and then put it down. “Great Clint,” he muttered. “Very smooth.”
He picked up a stack of photos and started sorting through them again, angrily slamming them back down on the coffee table as he finished with them.
There was knock on the door.
The apartment door opened and Peter himself entered.
“Hey,” Clint muttered grumpily. “You’re late.”
“You sound cheery,” said Peter.
Clint ignored him. Peter he came over and took a seat and picked up one of the photographs and glanced at it.
“I’m going through all the photographs of Layla at events from five years ago,” explained Clint, “Checking the background to see if I can spot Alan. If I find an evening they were at the same party, I can focus on that, check what other photographers covered the event and maybe get more photos from them.”
Peter nodded absently. “Sounds smart.” He seemed to be only half paying attention.
“And what’s up with you?” asked Clint, noticing his expression.
“Really?” He watched him a second longer. “So why are you two hours late?”
“I was having coffee with Holly,” said Peter reluctantly.
“The girl you’re trying to convince that Alan’s a killer? The girl you claim is just your friend and you have no interest in?”
“Yes,” said Peter icily, glaring at him.
“Right, just checking.” Clint grinned. He sorted some more photographs. “So. How’d it go?”
“We are not talking about this,” said Peter flatly.
“That bad? Or that good?”
“Are we actually going to work on this or talk about our feelings?” asked Peter dryly. “Cause I can’t wait to hear all about Nikki.”
“Right. Work.” Clint pushed a pile of pictures towards him. “These are from a launch party. Start looking for Alan. Think of it as a very weird version of Where’s Waldo.”
Peter took of his jacket and slung it behind the back his chair and then started going through the photos one by one, carefully examining the backgrounds and everyone in them.