The coyote walked nonchalantly down the middle of the road. A family of raccoons, fighting over a torn bag of potato chips, scampered out of its way. The diffused dawn light, filtered through the sparkling, wet tree leaves, revealed sheen on the road, caused by the sprinkling of overnight rain. The winter rains had cleared the smoggy summer skies of Los Angeles.
The Hollywood Hills were quiet after the late night holiday parties. The only noise that chilly morning was a bird singing in the tree next to the silent bungalow with the blue shutters. The woman inside didn’t hear its song as she lay on the bed in a long, white gown in the white bedroom. The only color in the room was the red that soaked the pillow under her head. The bird’s song ended.
Damn. My blouse is going to be ruined. Kay was hot, irritated by her car’s inadequate air conditioner, and worried about being late. The car windows were up to save her lungs from the belching fumes of the tour bus in front of her. She could feel sweat pooling under her arms and lamented the October continuation of Southern California’s hot, dry season. She longed for the rain that would arrive in a month or so, heralding winter. Meanwhile, her silk blouse suffered with her and her sunglasses kept slipping down her nose because of perspiration.
Normally, she liked the drive from Pacific Coast Highway, or PCH as it was known locally, along Sunset Boulevard toward West Hollywood and her office. She particularly enjoyed laughing at the life-sized statues with their painted genitals on the front lawn of a sheik’s mansion. This morning, however, she didn’t glance at them: she had been late leaving Trev’s beach house. She briefly wondered why she never questioned meeting at his house rather than at her Westwood apartment. Pushing the question aside, she thought about the night with him. A work day ‘date night’ was unusual, but he was leaving again on business tomorrow.
The operator of the tour bus, which was filled with sightseers eager to gaze at stars’ homes, signaled to turn left to enter the elite enclave of Bel Air by its west gate at Sunset and Bellagio. Before the bus turned Kay noticed a man at the back window taking a picture of her.
He probably thinks I’m someone special because of the Mercedes. Ha! It’s ten years old. Just for fun, Kay lowered the window and let the wind toss her long, strawberry blonde hair as she smiled at him. She knew what the tourist didn’t: she was just a talent agent working in the town’s entertainment industry and worried that her boss, Max Steiner, owner of the Steiner Talent Agency, would comment on her late arrival. She liked her work at the boutique agency. It was satisfying to find work and negotiate contracts for directors, performers, and script writers that didn’t want the impersonal handling they received at the mega agencies. Kay liked her colleagues, too, and knew that they wouldn’t comment on her late arrival; however, a few of the other agents would be silently pleased if Max made a point of it: being Max’s ‘star agent’ had its draw backs. It was a competitive business.
Without realizing it, she had passed UCLA’s campus where she had received her Theatre Arts degree and the turn-off to her apartment close to Westwood Village. How small my world is. For more than twelve years this town has been the extent of that world…first college here, then a very brief acting career in films, and now my work here as a talent agent.
Finally, after waiting for a break in the traffic, she made a left turn from Sunset into the underground parking garage next to Hamburger Hamlet near the intersection of Doheny Drive. Because of her status in the agency, she had a free, designated parking space. Most of the other agents had to pay a hefty monthly parking fee or hike from a parking spot on a distant side street.
Kay parked, took out her brief case filled with contracts she hadn’t looked at last night, grabbed her purse, and locked her car. The underground garage gave her the creeps. Every sound echoed in it, and she worried about crazies from the street lurking in the shadows. The parking attendant always seemed to be on a break from his booth. Instead of taking the garage elevator to the third floor, she took the grimy stairs as usual; although, after a morning run on the beach with Trev, she didn’t think her body was in any danger of losing its Hollywood requisite trimness.
(End of Excerpt from Chapter One)