3:35 am and I’m banging on Holly’s apartment door. I could have – maybe should have – been here 20 minutes earlier, but I doubled back more times than I could count to make sure I wasn’t showing anyone the way to Holly’s apartment. And right now I don’t give a fuck if I wake any neighbors. Holly’s not going to be here to hear from them if I can help it.
Through the door: “What do you want?”
“It’s Case. We gotta get you out of there to someplace safe.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Colleen is dead.”
I’ll give it to the girl, she knew how to pack in a hurry. Maybe it had something to do with dressing and undressing on the set of a porn flick, but I only had to stand around with my gun at the ready for a tick over six minutes before escorting her out of her apartment to the Impala.
Three more switchbacks past the apartment and I was confident no one was following us and I proceeded to my motel. I still took a few extra minutes surveying the area before we parked and got out of the car to step into my rented room.
All the while Holly hadn’t uttered a peep. If I hadn’t repeatedly glanced over my shoulder as I was driving to verify she was still there I would’ve thought picking her up had been a dream. Or, as in the case of our mutual friend, a nightmare.
“This is probably the stupidest thing I’ve ever done,” she finally muttered after I closed the door to the room behind me.
“You’re telling me Colleen is dead. I have to take your word for that.”
“It’s gonna hit the news soon, I’m sure.”
“But, how is that supposed to affect me?”
“You don’t care about her all the sudden?”
She threw her little suitcase onto one of the queen beds.
“I doubt that anyone was coming to kill me, Mr. Case. And had you never shown up there’s a very good chance Colleen would still be alive, or hadn’t you considered that?”
The truth was I’d considered that already, many times.
“I was hired by your mother to do a job, Holly. Once you and I met and I shared that with you, it should have been done based upon your response, yay or nay. That someone saw fit to murder Colleen for assisting me changed the complexion of this case dramatically. Now I have to worry just how far someone would take this… fuck!”
“In your dreams,” she growled.
So much for the fantasy coming to life again.
“No, it was something else that just came to mind, another piece of this puzzle.”
“Someone else’s life you’re putting in danger, perhaps?” she asked snidely.
I checked the time on my phone. 4:32 am.
“It’s a bit early, but would you like to talk to your mom? I can call – ”
“NO!” she snapped. “She’s as guilty as you are for Colleen being killed. Had she just kept her nose out of – ”
“You’ve got a young son, Holly. Doesn’t that at least count for something?”
“That was… another life.”
“I see… mind my asking what got you into this life? Doing porn?”
“That’s my business,” she said, sitting on the edge of the bed nearest her.
“Something your mother says was never on your radar, just a pipe dream of Oscar’s.”
“Yeah, well, Oscar got his wish by threatening Toby. He did a couple home video shoots with me to set things up and shopped it to his favorite porn studio, pretending to be a big shot porn actor – slash – producer. They laughed at his Spitting Cobra but immediately took a liking to me and my fucking tits.”
“His name for his little two-inch dick.”
I laughed. “What does a two-inch dick have in common with a Spitting Cobra?”
“You don’t want to fuck with either of ’em.”
This time we both laughed, but it was too short lived.
“Saul Gordon said he liked what he saw of me physically, but I came across too cold to be a ‘star’. It was Bobby Dare, gay porn producer or not, who saw the real potential and worked with me to build a mental ‘switch’ and create my alter ego.”
“He said it was something he did to convince straight guys to go gay for pay. I found I could turn off ‘Holly’ and just become this other person for the cameras. It’s almost like an out-of-body thing.”
“Yeah, he wanted me to do the same thing.”
“The jury is still out on whether you’d have done everyone a favor had you given in,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Then the money was good, and they managed to convince Oscar to go away. That meant Toby would be safe and I’d be able to build him a nice little nest egg from afar. But, you might have fucked all that up, now.”
“You want to stay in porn, Holly?”
She suddenly broke down crying. In the midst of her sobs I heard the word ‘no’.
I needed to make a phone call and visit a crime scene. With Holly’s assurance that she would stay in the room until I got back, I finally excused myself and stepped out. Once in the car, I made the phone call that had me on pins and needles. Despite the time, the phone was picked up immediately.
“You’ve found Holly?” Mrs. Titus asked excitedly.
“Yeah, but trying to get her home isn’t gonna come without a cost.”
“Mr. Case,” she snapped bitterly, “if you’re intending to extort –”
“Mrs. Titus,” I said in an equally harsh tone, “the cost is in human terms. My finding Holly puts her, you and Toby at serious risk. My attempt at bringing her home has the potential of getting someone else killed if we don’t think far ahead, and immediately.”
“Getting someone else killed?” she asked, her tone quickly reflecting worry. “Who? How... are Toby and I in danger?”
“Holly’s continued absence was a choice she had to make,” I replied. “For you and Toby.”
“How can – ”
“I don’t have time to explain. You just have to trust me on this. You and Toby need to find someplace else to be, and now.”