Holly vacillated. She wanted to know what Clint knew about Lionel but at the same time she kept thinking about Frank. Why was Clint any different that she could trust him? After all Clint was one of the paparazzi. Nikki apparently knew him but how well she wasn’t sure. Peter supposedly worked with him and she guessed there hadn’t been any leaks during that time and it certainly would have been quite a story.
She ran a hand across her hair and glanced doubtfully at Peter who nodded his encouragement.
“Believe me,” said Clint, as if he could read her thoughts, “If I wanted to leak stories, Nik would certainly know it by now.”
Holly was surprised by the look he gave Nikki. It was oddly soft, but also had the appearance of being accidental. He hadn’t meant to look at her like that, but Holly couldn’t tell if he were relieved or regretful that Nikki hadn’t seen it.
It was probably surprise and curiosity that caused Holly to explain things to Clint.
“He talked to me not very long before he died. He came up to me at a restaurant and asked me to talk to someone for him. I didn’t but I saw them later and they were arguing.”
Nikki was looking curious but Clint shrugged. “That doesn’t sound like that big a deal.”
“The argument was the night he died.”
“Oh. Well that makes a difference.”
Nikki stared. “You’re not honestly saying you think Lionel was murdered?”
“I’m not saying anything. I just want to know why it was he came to me and what about.”
“Who was the man he wanted to get put in touch with?” asked Clint.
Holly looked at Peter again, who again nodded.
Clint let out a soft whistle. “You’re certainly going after the big game. Peter made do with an actor.”
“I’m not going after anyone,” said Holly annoyed. She was rapidly coming to the conclusion that she didn’t like Clint very much. “I just want to understand what was going on between Lionel and Grant and why I got dragged into it.”
“From the sounds of it you weren’t that in it. Lionel asked you for help, you didn’t give it, end of story.”
“But then he and Grant were arguing at Malcolm’s house the night Lionel died. And I know I heard them talking about money or paying or something like that. Look all I know is there are some unanswered questions and I just want to know what they are.”
Clint shrugged. “I don’t know anything about Lionel’s business with Malcolm. He never mentioned it. Although…”
“Although what?” asked Peter.
“You say they were talking about money?”
“Lionel did tell me not long ago that he expected to have a lot of money coming his way soon. He was behind on child support and his ex-wife’s lawyer came looking for him. I wanted to know what was up so I went and found Lionel. That’s when he told me he was going to pay Linda as soon as he got this big pay day. I assumed at the time that he had the line on some big exclusive. I even asked around, called a few contacts to see if they knew of anything brewing but when they didn’t know I assumed Lionel had got someone on the inside that I didn’t know about.”
“But he could have been blackmailing Grant and Grant killed him because of it?” Everyone stared at Nikki. She shrugged. “Everyone’s thinking it; I don’t see anything wrong with saying it.”
“Nikki, maybe you shouldn’t be here for this,” said Clint. “If this turns into anything-”
“I’ll want to know about it,” interrupted Nikki. “After all I’ve eaten dinner with Malcolm Grant.”
“I suppose it doesn’t matter as I don’t see that it’s likely to turn into anything.”
“You always were the voice of pessimism,” said Peter.
“Lionel’s heart failed.”
“While he was being mugged.”
“That still isn’t murder. Manslaughter maybe but you’re not going to claim that Grant hired some thugs to accidently commit manslaughter.”
“No but he could have paid them to make it look that way.”
“Which the police would find out from the autopsy.”
“You always do advocate the police don’t you.”
“Look,” cut in Holly. “I’m not saying anyone murdered anyone. I’m not even saying there was blackmail. But I do want answers. Something happened, whether it was related to Lionel’s death or not. I just want to know what it is. If you can tell me anything about Lionel that might help me I’d appreciate it. But that’s all I’m asking of you.”
Clint nodded. “Fair enough. As I said he took a sort of ‘watchdog’ type attitude to the job but he was certainly sleazy enough to feel making a buck out of it would as much punishment for the celebrities as getting their dirty secrets splashed in the tabloids. I never heard of him doing it but I wouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t know him well enough to know if he lived beyond his means. Except perhaps that dinner but it was probably a onetime thing.”
“Four or five years ago, I double dated with him and his wife. We only did it twice. But I remember the second time we went to a very fancy restaurant. I was a little annoyed since it wasn’t where Lionel had said we’d be going and it was way out of my budget. But you can’t really argue the point when you’ve got a girl with you. Linda, Lionel’s wife, got very angry about it though. They had a fight about it and I think she might have mentioned that he’d been reckless with money recently.”
“Is this the same wife he owed child support to?” asked Holly.
“Yes. Linda Atwood.”
“Does she live in LA?”
“No. She lives out-of-state in Arizona.”
“Oh. Arizona?” Holly looked excited. “Where in Arizona?”
“I think in Tucson. I dimly recall Lionel mentioned flying out there to visit his kids once.”
“Hmm. But Lionel didn’t say anything recently, other than he was expecting a lot of money, that might suggest what was going on with him?”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
Holly nodded. “I see. Well thank you for your time.” She stood up.
“It was good to finally meet you,” said Clint. “And it was good to see you again too Peter.”
“Thanks for everything.” Peter shook his hand.
Holly sensed that Nikki was trying to stay back a little, probably hoping that she could say goodbye once Holly and Peter were out in the hallway, so she took Peter’s arm and hurried him along.
Nikki turned to Clint. “Thank you for meeting with her.”
“Of course. I was happy to do it.”
“Do you really think her suspicions are so ridiculous?”
“I don’t know. But I do think that Mal Grant is a very powerful man.”
Nikki wanted to say something else, but couldn’t think of anything that seemed right so she just wished him a good day and left.
As Nikki drove back to Holly’s house, Peter kept looking over at Holly. She looked thoughtful. He wanted to ask what was going on in her head, but she hadn’t been overeager to share with either Nikki or Clint and it was probably a good idea not to push it with himself either. You couldn’t earn trust if you demanded it.
Nikki dropped them off and left and Holly led the way into her house and to the kitchen where she started making them a pot of coffee. She hadn’t said much yet and it was starting to worry Peter.
“I think Clint gave us some good leads,” he said. It felt a little lame but it was better than sitting in silence.
“I want to go to Arizona,” said Holly abruptly.
Peter blinked. “To talk to Linda Atwood?”
“We could call her.”
“And start asking about her ex-husband, how he died and the way he spent his money? She’d hang up! No, it’s something that has to be done in person.”
Peter supposed she was probably right.
“Of course you don’t have to come with me-”
“I want to.”
Holly beamed at him. “Thank you.”
“You think we can find her though?”
“Probably. Assuming she still uses the name Linda Atwood.”
“When do you want to go?”
“Week after next. I have filming but the 22nd is the last day before we’re stop for the holidays. We can fly out that evening and stay at my parents’ house. They don’t live that far from Tucson.”
“I’ll book a hotel. Since it will be around Christmas you’ll want some time with your family.”
Holly looked down at the palm of her hands. “They’re in Europe for December.” Her voice was level but it had a slightly forced tone to it. Peter frowned.
“But they won’t mind us staying at the house. If you want to come. I understand if that close to Christmas-”
Peter snorted. “I haven’t celebrated the yuletide in years. There’s a 25th every month. I don’t care where I spend it. So Arizona it is.”