Page 43 of Imperial Bedrooms

"Why me?"

"Because she thinks you're the only one who can do something for her," Trent says, and then shakes his head again. "You're the only one who cares enough." He pauses. "Because she thinks that you're her only chance."

I force myself to laugh but it's just a gesture to overcome the fear. When I reach into my pocket for the iPhone three consecutive texts read: why are u with him? Why Are You With Him??? WHY ARE YOU WITH HIM???

I'm not listening to anything Trent says until I hear "As of now, you've officially made yourself a target" because this reminds me of what Rip Millar told me in the back of the limousine a few nights ago. "What?" I look up from the phone and then glance fearfully down the boardwalk at the guy in the windbreaker, who has appeared again, pretending to stare dreamily into the hazy distance.

Chapter 13

"Someone could be setting you up," Trent says.

"Being set up for what?"

Trent notices something as I light a cigarette.

"Your hand is shaking," he says. "You can't smoke here."

"I don't think anyone's around to enforce that."

On the roof of the Mexican restaurant someone is scanning the pier with a pair of binoculars. And then I realize that the guy who's been following us is taking more pictures, his camera aimed at the ocean even though the haze makes these pictures almost impossible, unless instead he's taking pictures of two guys leaning against the railing at the end of the Santa Monica pier, one of them smoking a cigarette, the other one backed away from him in frustration. The windbreaker guy crosses the pier again as if he's looking for a better angle and I don't say anything to Trent because he hasn't noticed the guy and the empty roller-coaster cars glide slowly down their tracks, slipping in and out of the haze, and someone faintly sings you're still the one from a radio inside a surf shop and on the beach a surfer shuffles through the sand near the water's edge, a towel wrapped around his head like a turban.

"You know she came on to Mark," Trent says. "Or did you know that?"

I keep looking at the phone.


"She tried to f**k him," Trent says. "He wasn't interested. He laughed about it. It was the night after the audition and she sent him pictures of herself. She told him he could f**k her if he wanted to."

I look back at the roof of the restaurant and then I squint at the blond guy with the camera, now disappearing into the haze.

"He said she was too old for him - "

"Are you trying to make me angry?"

Trent moves into another tactic. "Daniel Carter's interested in doing Adrenaline. He wants to make it his next movie. We could make that happen." Trent looks at me hopefully. "Would that mollify you?"

"What are you doing, Trent? Why are you here?" I mutter. "If you're not going to talk straight to me then I'm leaving."

"Just walk away. Just leave her alone. I'm just asking you to walk away from her and leave it alone." Trent pauses. "You don't need to know why. You're not going to get any answers. I doubt it would matter to you if you had them anyway."

"I don't give a shit about what you want." I pause. "What I want to know is what happens if I go to the police? What if I lay out a scenario and I think it's a pretty goddamn plausible one about Rip Millar and what happened to Kelly Montrose and what if I go to the police and - "

"No, you won't do that," Trent says tiredly, turning away from me. "You won't do that, Clay."

"Why are you so sure about that?" I toss the cigarette, half smoked, onto the pier and grind it out with my shoe.

"That girl you beat up?" Trent says. "The actress. The one from Pasadena?"

I immediately start walking away from Trent.

"The one that your scumbag lawyer paid off? Two years ago?"

Trent keeps following me.

"She's willing to talk," Trent says, keeping up. "Did you know she was pregnant at the time of the assault? Did you know that she lost the baby?"

Amanda Flew's body is never found but a video of what appears to be her last hours is posted on the Net in a clip and you have to pretend you're not watching it in order to get through it. Amanda is in a motel room nude and incoherent and being shot up by men wearing ski masks. She has a seizure and two of the enormous men hold her down while her body thrashes on the newspapers taped to the floor, and then tools are removed from what looks like a beer cooler. The men take turns urinating on her and they keep slapping her face to keep her awake. And then the seizures become more intense and during one of them an eyeball is dislodged, bulging from its socket, and then a semierect c**k is pushed in and out of her slack mouth, and then it's removed once blood starts running down her face, and it's at about this point in the roughly ten minutes of footage that you finally see it: when the drugs start wearing off and Amanda realizes what's going to happen to her and she stares into the camera lucidly for one long moment, her panicked expression becoming something else. And then the thing that makes me shut it off happens: you realize this isn't just about Amanda. I can't help thinking that it's happening because of me.