Clint tossed the photographs down onto the coffee table. They skidded across it and fell to the floor. He buried his forehead in his palms and took a deep breath. He felt the frustration trying to launch out of him and instinctively kicked the coffee table.
He’d gone through so many photos, tabloids and websites that he was thoroughly sick of the very sight of Layla. It felt like she’d spent time with every man in Hollywood other than the one he was looking for. He was done. He was out of ideas.
He rose to his feet and grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator before returning to the couch. He had to admit to himself though that his inability to find any evidence that Layla knew Alan wasn’t really what was bothering him but he wanted to be angry about something.
He flicked on the TV and started flicking through the channels.
It was not, he told himself, that he was angry at Nikki specifically, so much as that he was angry at the situation in general. He understood to some extent her desire to try something new as a way to deal with the current tabloid scandal. Nikki was impulsive. She’d hired him impulsively, she threw things impulsively, he had told her to get a hobby and she’d picked out diving less than twenty-four hours later impulsively. She went with her gut in dealing with a problem and, he had started to learn, she was stubborn. If she was any less stubborn she’d have let Vanessa talk her into firing him long ago.
She had made up her mind and she wanted this. Maybe he should just let her have it. He could retract his objections, apologize, everything would go back to normal. It was what, he was sure, they both wanted. Nikki loved him. Phrasing it like that in his head, it hit him like a ton of bricks. And he loved her. He didn’t think he’d ever said that to her, not exactly. He’d told her he cared about her, he might have occasionally said ‘you too’ in response to her own declarations, but he’d never actually said ‘I love you’ to her. At least not that he could remember. He could say everything else, he’d told her about his life, her life; he didn’t hold back, he seldom did with anyone. But that he’d been reluctant to say.
He could go to her now and say it. He could tell her he was an idiot and that she should do the movie. It would be alright. They’d be alright. He shifted his weight, on the verge of standing up to go to her, but he hesitated. He’d be lying. The script was bad. Nikki could be another Lauren Bacall and she still wouldn’t be able to save that film. It was going to tank.
He was her manager. He had a job. It was his responsibility to give her advice and tell her like it was. That was why she’d hired him. If he compromised that for the sake of their relationship…
He couldn’t let himself to take the easy way out. Not again.
Clint was still flicking through the channels, mashing down on the controller button a little harder than necessary when he recognized someone on the television. It was a guest on a morning show. Wanting to distract himself from his current train of thoughts, he focused on her, frowning as he tried to place her. And then it clicked. This was Holly Woods.
He unmuted the TV. She was clearly very nervous, occasionally running her hand across the top of her hair, but she had a nice smile and she was clearly putting in an effort. She had a charm to her. Despite her nerves she had a very open and genuine air. She was also pretty. And there was a certain excitement in her eyes that made oddly young and open. This was the girl Peter was so desperate to convince her boyfriend was a killer.
Watching her, Clint sort of got it. Peter probably couldn’t find someone less like Layla if he tried.
If Peter was right, and he did seem awfully desperate to prove it, what did that mean for Holly? Clint hadn’t really thought of things from her perspective until now; he hadn’t really thought of her at all. But now he was thinking.
It was hard to understand Peter’s motivations here if the whole story about Alan was a lie. If this Holly girl was serious about Alan, then any evidence Peter brought to her would have to be pretty serious as well. He had gone out on a limb in breaking into Alan’s trailer…it did not quite fit the actions of a guilty man.
Clint tried to think about this another way. If, for the sake of argument, he decided to believe Peter, and if he assumed Alan and Layla had been seeing each other, then instead of asking if there was a picture of them together, he should instead ask why there wasn’t. Layla was as far from shy as it was possible to be. She wouldn’t care if people saw them together, in fact she’d probably enjoy it and she wanted her name in the papers. So maybe Alan didn’t want the pictures, maybe he was concerned for this father’s political career. But even so it wouldn’t add. Layla could have worked around that; an anonymous tip to a few photographers and they’d be splashed all over the tabloids for Peter to see.
No, if their relationship was kept secret, then it was because they both wanted it. Or at least because Layla wanted it.
Clint stood up quickly and came around the table to pick up the pictures that had fallen to the floor. He looked through them. So many evenings and parties and dates. But the thing was they’d never been serious. Layla used men and moved on. If she stuck one out a little longer it was because they were giving a little more. But none of them were serious to her. But maybe Alan was serious. Or at least different. Maybe there’d been more to their relationship. Maybe that’s why he could have been hurt enough to kill her.
And if it was serious she might have kept it quiet. If it was serious-
She was having dinner with some guy, who was definitely not her husband. It was at this nice private little restaurant right out of town. Very romantic.
It was probably the fact he’d just been thinking about her just a few minutes ago, that Nikki’s words suddenly jostled their way into his brain. It had been months but he was sure she’d said it. They’d been looking at that tabloid article about Holly, Peter and Alan and she’d mentioned Layla.
It wasn’t unusual for celebrities to have a few select spots, that were safe away from the tabloids and where they knew the staff wouldn’t sell them out. And it wasn’t unusual for a very few, very good at their job, paparazzi to know about them. Layla and Alan wouldn’t have been a story, not back then. Not enough to give away someone’s knowledge of the preferred restaurant. A photographer wouldn’t have wanted to blow their cover on that. They’d have taken the picture and stashed it and waited for a bigger pay day.
He grabbed his car keys and headed for the door. He needed to talk to Nikki.