It took Holly twenty minutes to shower and blow-dry her hair, after which she met Nikki downstairs. Nikki grabbed her keys and the two headed out to her car. Holly sunk down low in the backseat, keeping her face below window level. She stayed down, as Nikki pulled out of her house and drove past Alan’s and the photographers. Several blocks away she pulled over to allow Holly to move up to the front and then drove the rest of the way to the studio.
Holly made a quick phone call on Nikki’s phone to Amy to assure her she was alright. She tried Alan again but couldn’t get an answer.
Nikki reached the Homestead parking lot and pulled up to the curb. She turned to Holly with a smile.
“I hope everything blows over soon. The press can be a huge pain but, as someone has recently taught me, you just have to know how to work them.”
“Thanks for driving me.”
“No problem. Here.” Nikki reached into her purse and took out a scrap of paper. She scribbled a number on it and handed it to Holly. “When you feel up to it, call me. We should hang out. I could show you a few fun spots and you can get to know Hollywood.”
“I have lived in LA for almost two years now.”
“Oh I meant the Hollywood you only get to see once you’re famous enough. The fun one.”
“But seriously,” said Nikki. “Call me. I’ve been dealing with this stuff since I was fifteen. Maybe I don’t always deal with it well, but I understand how hard it can get.”
“Thank you.” Holly pocketed the number and exited the car. She waved a last goodbye to Nikki and watched her drive off.
Feeling strangely embarrassed, Holly turned and made her way towards set. She couldn’t quite say why she was feeling so nervous about facing everyone, but she was definitely dreading it. She tried to remind herself she’d done nothing wrong and she had no reason to be afraid to look anyone in the eye, but her emotions weren’t agreeing with her thoughts.
As she reached the set, there were increasingly more people around. She could feel several of them staring in her direction, but tried to ignore it as she made her way towards the saloon.
She pushed open the doors and stepped in, looking around. Walsh was conferring with the head of the lighting department over at the bar. She approached him nervously.
“Walsh?” she said, tentatively.
He turned around quickly. “Holly!” He seemed surprised to see her. “You’re here.”
“I’m hours late. I know. I’m sorry. I had-…well last night wasn’t good and…” she trailed off.
“I heard,” he said. “I actually wasn’t sure you were going to come in today. We tried calling you.”
“I left my cellphone at Alan’s. I really am sorry-”
“No. It’s fine. We moved the schedule around a little. We’re filming your scenes tomorrow.”
“Oh.” Holly nodded. “Alright. Thank you.”
“Will that be alright?”
“Yes. Definitely. I’ll be here.” Walsh nodded and turned back to the other man. Uncertainly, Holly made her way back outside. She stood there for a moment, trying to figure what she would do. She could head to the costume department to hang out with Evelyn and Matilda. That’s what she would have done on a normal day.
But this was not a normal day. Approaching Walsh had been difficult enough. Facing Evelyn…somehow it seemed nearly impossible. She knew Evelyn would be kind and sympathetic. But that first moment of facing her felt oddly insurmountable.
No, she’d go get a cup of coffee at the studio café and then she’d head home and see Amy.
The studio café. Where she’d gone with Peter. Peter. If there was one person who would understand, who’d know exactly the right thing to say in this situation, it would be Peter. And right this moment that’s all she really cared about.
She pulled out her cellphone and started walking quickly, hoping to avoid having to talk with anyone else. She dialed Peter’s number and raised the phone to her ear.
It rang once.
“Holly!” a voice called out to her.
She turned quickly. Walking quickly towards her was- “Alan!” she hung up the phone before it had a chance to ring a second time and hurried towards him. Reaching him, she threw her arms around his neck and held on, hugging him tightly. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relieved to see anyone in my life,” she murmured.
“You’re relieved?” he laughed, but hugged her back tightly as if to reassure himself. “I knew you had to be alright, but since the security company called me I’ve been desperate to hear from you.”
“They called you?” she pulled back to look up at him.
“Yes. I got the call early this morning. I’ve tried to call you several times-”
“I left my phone at your house and I haven’t been back.”
“Holly I’m so sorry. I should have told you what the police said about letters and that they thought the writer was dangerous but I just didn’t want to worry you. And I never should have let you stay alone at my house while I knew there was someone dangerous like that out there. It just never occurred to me they’d try to break-in.”
Holly shook her head. “It’s not your fault. And I was stupid. I should have turned on the security system, I just forgot. Besides you couldn’t have known about Robin and what would happen.”
He reached out and ran a hand through her hair. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”
She smiled at him. “And I’m just glad you’re here.”
“I got on the first flight I could.”
He frowned and looked around them. Holly flushed as she realized there were a handful of cast and crew opening gawking at them.
“You’re not working today are you?” he asked. “Not after last night?”
“No. Walsh rescheduled my scenes for tomorrow.”
“Good, then I’m going to take you home. Come on.” He drew her arm through his and led her back off the set and towards the parking lot.
She was silent as they reached the car. He unlocked it, holding opening the passenger door for her. He got behind the wheel, and pulled out of the lot. As he drove out of the studio and down the street, occasionally he’d glance over at her, looking worried.
“I’m okay,” she said at last, breaking the silence. “Really. Especially now that you’re here.”
He sighed. “I just feel like this was my fault.”
“It wasn’t. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. Well maybe Robin’s,” she amended. “But even then I got the sense he might not have been entirely well-balanced.”
“What exactly happened?” he asked. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want. But the security firm wasn’t clear exactly how it happened. They said you shot him?”
“Yes,” she said reluctantly. “And honestly that’s the part I feel most…awful about. When he’d broken in and we were in the living room together it was…terrifying.” She shook her head. “But that split second where I pulled the trigger. That’s what keeps going over in my head.”
She noticed Alan’s grip tightening on the steering wheel. His voice sounded oddly strained as he said, “You did what you had to do.” There was a long pause and she studied his profile, trying to decipher what the expression was playing over his features. “They told me he was taken to the hospital?”
“Yes,” she said, “I haven’t heard anything else yet. I hope-” she cut herself off, not wanting to voice her fears.
“You shot a man in self-defense,” said Alan firmly. “If he dies, that’s not on you. You didn’t murder anyone. You don’t have to live with that.”
Holly frowned, feeling there was something a little odd about the way he had phrased it but decided not to pursue it.
They were silent for another couple of blocks.
“Where did you get it anyways?” asked Alan suddenly. “The gun? I didn’t know you had one.”
“I don’t. I got it from your safe.”
The car braked sharply. Holly threw out her hands to brace herself against the dashboard as she jerked forward and then snapped back, banging her head against her seat with a thud. Several cards honked loudly.
“Alan?” she turned to him alarmed. “What are you doing?”
He was staring at her.
“Alan we’re stopped in the middle of the street!”
He looked back at the road and seemed to pull himself together. He started the car again and drove several blocks. “You got the gun out of my safe?” His voice was calm, but there was an underlying note of tension.
“Yes,” she said, a little defensively. “You’d left the safe opened when you left, and I saw it inside. When Robin was breaking into the room, I remembered it. It was the only thing I could think of to do.”
When he responded it sounded as if he were choosing his words carefully. “Where is the gun now?”
“The police took it. They said it was standard procedure. They also said they’re going to need you to show them the license for it. I didn’t know where it was and they didn’t find it in the safe.” There was a long pause. “Alan,” she said tentatively. “You do have a license for it, don’t you?”
He smiled at her. It did not however look quite like his usually broad, all-encompassing smile. “Of course I do.”