Chapter One

Sage McCall looked around the television production set and tried to focus her, attention anywhere except at the dead man lying at her feet.

Long after midnight, the familiar shapes of television cameras, sound booms, and dollies were obscured in the darkness. Their outlines took on strange silhouettes in the half-lit room.

Overhead lights hung from the dark shadows and the studio cameras pointed toward the empty set, which sat obscured in complete darkness. No actors, no contestants, no cheery host to startle the contestants with new surprises.

To her left, an empty director’s chair sat surrounded by dark monitors. To her right, an odd assortment of heavy crates and boxes were stacked high.

It was all so quiet, too quiet.

Sage took a long breath and looked down at the lifeless body of Evan Davis, the lighting gaffer.

“He’s dead,” Double K said staring down at the corpse.

“I can see that,” Sage replied in a voice void of emotion. She bent down and pressed her index and middle finger to the dead man’s neck. No pulse, confirming what she already knew was true.

“He was shot with an arrow,” Double K said as if she didn’t notice the two foot arrow protruding out of the man’s chest.

“Thanks,” Sage said without humor, “I can see that too.”

Ken Kendrick, ‘Double K’ stood looking twice his 6’5” height. If he fashioned his hair into a Mohawk style, he could have easily passed for a younger Mr. T. Sage knew him as a gentle black giant who was both her protector and her friend. He slowly folded his arms across his massive chest. “What are we going to do now?”

Sage slowly rose to her feet. She took a backward step away from the corpse, assessing the situation and formulating a plan of action. A real life murder was not in the script of this latest reality television show. She found no humor in it.

“First, we are going to call the Police Chief,” she said with a groan. She had already had two run-ins with him. Despite his movie star good looks, he had made it very clear that the film crew and cast of Murder In Florida were not welcome in his quiet resort town. She was still seething from their last encounter. What had he called her, Malibu Barbie? He was the last man she wanted to call this quiet, somber night.

The Chief of Police tolerated them because he had to. Fortunately for True West Production Company and McMasters Studios, the mayor of this hamlet was convinced Murder In Florida would put his tiny coastal city of St. Gabrielle on the map.

“After I alert the Police Chief, “she continued, “We’re going to partition off this entire area. No one is to come in or out. Speaking of … where the heck is Jamie Wolf? Wasn’t he supposed to be here?”

Double K shook his head. “Haven’t seen him.”

Sage frowned and looked around as if waiting for her second security guard to materialize from the darkness. This wasn’t like Jamie. Despite his shaggy blonde California looks, he was hard working and didn’t slack. She felt no sense of urgency as she looked back at the corpse, Jamie had probably made his last round about eleven and gone on to bed.

“Well,” she said turning her attention back to Double K, “if this is a crime scene, we’re going to have to keep the evidence, everything intact.”

“Ah, Sage,” Double K began matter-of-factly, “the man has got an arrow through the center of his chest. This is a crime scene.”

Sage glared at him.” Go get Hillary,” Sage said in a voice cool as ice water. She groaned at the thought of waking Hillary. After years of struggling in the business, Murder In Florida was to be Hillary Kenyon’s directorial debut. Though Sage considered Hillary a near psychopath, Sage admired Hillary’s obsession to detail. She had no idea how Hillary would react and braced herself for either a facade of new age serenity or complete hysteria.

Watching Double K leave, she was painfully aware of being alone on the empty production set with the corpse.

The site location was actually St. Gabrielle, Florida. Just seventy miles north of Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico; St. Gabrielle offered McMasters the perfect locale for this third in a series of reality “whodunits” that allowed the audience follow along with week to week episodes.

Murder in Santa Barbara had been last summer’s runaway hit. Its sequel in the winter Murder in New England hadn’t fared so well. Despite the poor ratings in the last sequel, the producers believed Murder in Florida would rocket the series back to the top of the Nielsen list. Though it was being filmed now for air play sometime next summer, the crew, the cast, the actors, and the contestants had assembled two weeks ago.

Most filming was set out of doors, but beginning and closing segments were filmed in this room, a renovated restaurant known in its heyday as the Sand Point Inn. The production set had been constructed months earlier in this abandoned restaurant. The adjacent hotel, also renovated by McMasters Studio, served as a backdrop for the make-believe TV murder, and also housing for the crew, cast and contestants.

Isolated and surrounded by water on three sides, Sand Point Inn was attached to the mainland by a tiny piece of land that served as a natural bridge. Dark foreboding cypress swamps stood as twin sentinels on either side of the roadway. A perfect murder indeed, Sage thought looking down at the corpse.

A light gray mist curled its silvery tongue at the windows, licking its moist breath and faint pungent smell against the glass panes. Sage stood, listening to the soft, steady pounding of the gulf waters, lapping against the restaurant’s wooden deck. During the day the restaurant and outside deck provided a spectacular view of the Gulf of Mexico with its brilliant multicolored sunsets.

Just before turning in for the night, Double K found Evan’s body. Evan lacked social grace and at times was downright rude, but Sage couldn’t think of any reason anyone would have to kill him. She knew he had a drinking problem but she was sure Hillary, her AD, Assistant Director, Connard and the crews Associate Producer, Jeff Sanders were all aware of the Evan’s frequent nips of Jack Daniels. Baby-sitting the crew wasn’t her problem, Security was.

Born the third daughter to Jack and Savannah McCall, she was Daddy’s little girl and heir apparent for her father’s successful Los Angeles security firm. Neither sister would oppose her in this. Fallon, the oldest, was determined to follow in their beautiful mother’s footsteps and become a movie star. Mallory, the youngest sister denounced the superficial LA lifestyle and had taken her three dogs and a cat to the great woods of Northern California.

Though he loved his family dearly, Jack McCall considered her two sisters and their Mother certified flakes. He nevertheless indulged all of them in their every whim and gave each their heart’s desire. He could afford to. Once a stunt man, Jack McCall started his security firm shortly after the Tate-LaBianca Murders in ’67. Today, McCall Security was one of the largest, most respected security firms in Los Angeles. Not only did it provide security and body guards to the movie stars and rock legends but also provided security to movie and television crews shooting in or out of LA.

Sage had grown up in this world and as a likable and lovely child had been embraced by both the famous and not so famous. With a degree in criminal psychology, training in various types of martial arts, firearms, and special tactical training, Sage relished every aspect of the business, knowing one day she would be running it.

Murder in Florida was supposed to be just another assignment and not a very glamorous one at that. When asked by her father to oversee security on the location, she hadn’t given it a second thought.

Now, less than a week into production, she had a corpse on her hands. With two confrontations with the Chief of Police Jon Maddux under her belt in as many weeks, she was hardly eager for another one.

“I have to call Dad,” Sage said aloud, pushing herself to action, “and I have to call Maddux first.”

During their last meeting, while he split hairs with her about the a traffic assistance permit, he had taken in every inch of her long blonde hair, her blue eyes, her full bust, small hips and trim athletic body.

Gritting her teeth, she pulled her cell phone from her belt and bypassed the 911 operator to directly connect to the St. Gabrielle Police Department. The less people know about this the better.

“This is Sage McCall, Security Chief for McMasters Production Company; I need to report a murder,” she began in an even voice to the dispatcher, “on the set of Murder in Florida.”

“Hey Sage,” a friendly male voice replied, “This is Billy Neville. Remember me; I work for you part time?”

“Hey, Billy,” she responded wondering if he had heard her correctly, or perhaps, he thought she was having a bit of fun. She kept her voice clear and insistent as she said, “Look, I need you to get your Chief of Police and the Medical Examiner to the set. Double K found one of the production crew dead; he appears to have been shot.”

“OK, geeze, look,” came Billy’s troubled reply, “Let me find the Chief right away. Stay on the line; I’ll put you on through.”

Before she could say “no, you call him,” Billy had already placed her on hold.

Fifteen long seconds later, she heard the clicking sounds that patched her though to Jon Maddux. “A murder?” he snarled instantly.

He was home and in bed, Sage thought. The call woke him up. This was getting better by the minute.

He didn’t bother to hide his throaty yawn. “Are you sure?”

He sounded bored.

“Yes, I’m sure” she snapped.

The long exhausted sigh from the other end did little to soothe her temperament. Wishing she could hang up and apologize for disturbing his sleep, she stood still, her cell phone in hand. She wrapped her delicate little fingers wrapped about the cell the way she wished she could wrap them around Jon Maddux’s neck.

“All right, all right,” he said as though he were indulging child frightened by the boggy man, “let me get dressed. I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

He ended the call without the good manners to say goodbye. Sage’s lips formed an angry ‘oh’ before she snapped her cell phone into its casing.

“Jerk!” she said for no one to hear. Still incensed, she allowed her mind to drift to the tall, tanned good looking Chief of Police. Dark brown eyes, short chestnut hair, and he had a chest that money couldn’t buy. She imagined the long tanned legs sliding out from cool sheets. She followed the large hands as they reached for his pants, and then in her mind’s eye followed the pants up the muscular calves and firm thighs to slip over the narrow hips to his trim waist. Indulging herself, she saw that tan police shirt being slid over each muscular arm to the broad shoulders before miraculously being buttoned over his broad chest.

He wouldn’t bother to use a comb she mused, just unceremoniously rake his fingers his dark hair. Annoyed at the vivid images that spring unexpectedly to her mind’s eye and angry at herself for entertaining them she banished the visions to the dark side of her soul. Clearly, she had more pressing issues to deal with than the handsome Chief of Police.

Glancing at her watch, she read 3:45, 12:45 in LA. She hesitated about placing the call but knew she had to.

Her father answered. “Hello, Pumpkin. It’s late, later for you. Anything wrong, sweet pea?”

Sage drew a soft breath. “Dad, there’s been a murder on the set.”

She heard her Dad chuckle. “Very funny, now let your Mom and I go back to bed. You do the same.”

“Dad,” she said dropping her voice, “there has been a real murder on the set. Double K found the gaffer. He has been shot through the chest….with an arrow.” This time she had her father’s full attention. She continued, “I have already called the Chief of Police. Double K has gone to wake Hillary.”

“Do you want me to come out?” her father said slowly, “I’ll fly out tonight.”

“No Dad, I have it under control. I’ll call you after Chief Maddux gets here.”

She could hear her father thinking.

“I need to call Nick McMasters. As studio head, he needs to know now. I’ll call . . . no. . . . I’ll drive on over there. You say it was the gaffer? What’s his name?”

“Evan Davis.”

“Don’t know him. Nick will want to know how this will affect production. I’ll find him. He’ll either be at his house or the studio. Either way, I’ll have my cell phone on. Call me when you know more.”

The line when dead and Sage ended her connection. This was going to be a long night in LA, Sage mused. This was going to be a long night in Florida as well.

Across town, Jon Maddux struggled to shake off sleep. The image of Sage McCall and all she represented flashed in his mind. He had fought hard to keep the television film crew away from his town. In the end, his voice was silenced by the city fathers eager for tourist dollars that the show would bring. They didn’t seem to realize with the fame and notoriety would also come some big city problems. Problems he thought he had left behind in South Florida.

Glancing at the wall calendar, he read it was May 22. Had he been here two years? He tried to go back in his mind and remember a time when he was innocent of the cruelty man inflicted on his fellow man. He couldn’t remember that far back. He had come here to escape that world, to find peace, to find himself and little Miss Sage McCall and company was on the verge of taking it all away… again.

This was not the life he planned. After college and a stint with the military, he had joined the DEA, being assigned to his home town, Miami. He grimaced, remembering that once he actually believed he could make a difference in the drug war in South Florida. For every drug felon down, for every murder, for every good cop gone bad, a hundred more rose in their place. In the end, his efforts were hardly a drop in the proverbial bucket.

Frustrated, he left the DEA, his partner’s untimely death for which he felt responsible and a string of mediocre relationships to move to the small town of St. Gabrielle. He liked the feeling of keeping peace in the small town. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was even beginning to hope he could have what other men had a wife, family, kids hell, he wanted it all.

His world was about to turn inside out and he resented it. He resented the damn TV Show that came to town and he resented her! He slid his pants on muttering a silent oath under his breath at the Mayor and his group of small town cohorts who when they had heard the TV studio was going to lease the old Sand Point Inn, they had rushed in and purchased the property for a song cheating out a widow from her due.

He jerked his shirt off the chair where he had thrown it the night before, and with it came the haunting image of beautiful Sage McCall. She had walked into his office the first time regarding one of the location’s shooting permits. He had been unprepared for their initial meeting and recalled quickly the image she had left.

Her manner had been crisp and straightforward. Transfixed by the tempting sensuous way her full lips moved as she spoke in a soft, melodious voice but, it was her sapphire eyes, the color of the shimmering turquoise waters of the Florida Keys, held him the most. Her lips were the color of a pink hyacinth and promised to be every bit as sweet. He had let her talk while he took the time to examine the soft curves of her trim, athletic body as she moved about his office.

The wealth of blonde hair was pulled back in a pony tail gave the impression it had been spun from pure gold. She was a natural blonde with luxurious strands of wheat gleaming with honeyed highlights, perfected by the golden California sun. He wondered at the time if it would also be as soft to touch.

She reminded him of an actress she had seen on TV recently, but couldn’t place the name. Besides wasn’t everyone in Hollywood just waiting to be a star? He was sure this seductive little beauty despite her wholesome good looks was no exception.

Though he would hardly qualify as an expert on women’s makeup, she wore little. He did however like the way she accented her perfectly shaped oval face with just a touch of dusty rose at her high cheeks. It suited her and appealed to him. He had admired her tight, hard little body. She was athletic, with slim hips curving to firm thighs, and well defined calves. Her arms were small but shapely and suggested a weight training regimen. Overall, she was exquisite and pleasing to the eye.

He had originally guessed at the time that she was some rent-a-cop who had little to do but walk the set and look good. Then he realized she was Sage McCall, Jack McCall’s little girl. Even he had heard of the legendary McCall Security Firm whose bodyguards and security details kept watch over Hollywood’s most affluent and prestigious palaces.

Ignoring his attraction to her, he was under strict orders to ensure her wishes were followed. My job, he thought, as he tightening his belt is to uphold the law, not cater to the whims and fancies of Sage McCall. On her second visit, he had argued with her and had been pleasantly surprised to find that when attacked, the little wolverine held her ground. And now she was claiming a real murder had happened. He swore under his breath. Given the nature of the TV show’s theme, the news media was going to have a field day. What he thought would stay under wraps until the show aired would now be on the cover of every new tabloid in the country.

At the moment, however, he wasn’t all that certain that there had been a murder. There was only one way to find out. He glanced at his watch. He would be at the Sand Point Inn in less than twenty minutes. Strangely, he found himself interested not only in this alleged murder but also seeing Ms. McCall again, Hollywood rent-a-cop or not.

Sage turned just in time to see the shows director, Hillary Kenyon standing at the doorway. Though Sage and Double K were her only audience, she slumped dramatically.

“Oh my God,” screamed Hillary.

Sage noted Hillary’s momentous pause at the doorway and frowned.

Assured that Sage had noted her grand entrance, Hillary’s beautiful features relaxed a bit. With her hands flaying wildly in the air, she rushed across the room, her silk white house coat open to reveal a matching white silk gown. At least she was clothed, Sage thought with gratitude.

“Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!” Hillary cried. Rushing toward Sage, Hillary dodged cameras and moved as quickly as a Monday night running back, ducking about lighting equipment, around the dolly and almost leaping over electrical wiring. She stopped abruptly at Sage’s side and stared down at the dead man propped up against a long wooden crate. Staring at the corpse, she blinked and turned to Double K. Hillary’s lovely face twisted. With an exasperated sigh, she spat. “You didn’t tell me it was the gaffer. You made it sound like someone important!”

Double K’s expression didn’t change. Sage knew he was pleased he had annoyed her. No one liked Hillary; least of all Double K. Hillary looked back to Sage. “Is he really dead?”

“Well, yes, he’s dead,” Sage pointed out, “notice that arrow sticking out of his chest?”

Hillary looked down at the corpse as if seeing it for the first time and glared back at Sage.

“Is this going to affect tomorrow’s shoot? I can’t allow this production to fall behind schedule,” Hillary cried in outrage at being so inconvenienced, Sage shook her head and looked at Double K. She was beginning to feel sorry for Evan Davis. Surly or not, the man deserved some semblance of respect.

“Hillary,” Sage began as if talking to a child. “This man has been shot. Law enforcement is going to close this area as a crime scene. Until they release it, we won’t be able to breathe in here.”

“They can’t do that,” Hillary protested.

“They can and they will.” Sage assured her.

“Well, you’re the Security Chief, do something!”

“I can’t, Hillary,” Sage argued annoyed that she had to. “You‘re going to have to deal with this problem. Shoot around it.”

For a moment, Hillary was lost in thought.

“I suppose I could,” she said her mouth curling into a thin-lipped smile and hissed, ‘You get this cleared up as quickly as possible.” “I’ll do my best,” Sage promised with a glance at Double K. Hillary seemed momentarily satisfied.

“Hillary,” Sage said softly, “the Chief of Police is due here anytime, and I am sure the local TV crews will be right behind him. You’ll probably want to…..”

“Oh my God,” Hillary said, bringing her hand to her face. “You’re right! I will put on some makeup and come right back. Something like this is bound to be on EXTRA! I might even be interviewed on E!”

Hillary looked at Sage and smiled. Then without warning, Hillary’s face became expressionless. She sneered at Sage, “I don’t know why I am telling you this. Just do whatever it is you do.”

With that said, she practically ran from the set.

“That was mean,” Double K said under his breath, “It will take the nearest TV crew hours to get here.”

Sage snickered. “I know that and so do you. Hillary will figure it out sometime tomorrow.”

“One thing is for sure, this is gonna mess up filming,” he said with a long sigh.

“It sure will,” Sage agreed, “I doubt if the police here will be as accommodating as they are in Los Angeles.”

Double K bobbed his head slowly in agreement.

“Called your Dad?” he asked as Jon Maddux came in through front door.

Sage gave Double K a quick nod and shouted out to the Police Chief, “Over here.”

Like Hillary, Jon had little choice but to maneuver his way about the camera, wires and studio equipment scattered throughout the set. With his velvet brown gaze steady and affixed to the body. He cursed as he approached the body.

“What happened?” he asked without looking at either Double K or Sage.

Double K answered. “He’s dead.”

At 6’3”, Jon Maddux was almost as tall as Double K but he didn’t in the least seem intimated by former Hollywood bodyguard. Double K’s pleasure increased in equal proportion to the Police Chief’s growing animosity.

“Double K found the body about 2:30,” Sage interjected.

“Who is he?” Jon asked turning his attention back to the corpse.

“His name is Evan Davis. He is the gaffer,” Sage replied, then explained, “The chief electrician on the set who oversees the lights, all power sources from supplying the equipment to shutting down the set at the end of production.”

Jon didn’t bother to thank her for this bit of information. “Have either of you touched anything? Disturbed the body in anyway?”

Sage resented the implication but answered with a simple, “No.”

“All right,” Jon said firmly, “I’m going to ask you both to leave. I can’t have this crime scene contaminated any more than it already is. I’ll have a lot of questions so don’t go far.”

“Excuse me,” Sage responded sharply, abandoning all pretense of civility, “but I’m not leaving.”

“You don’t understand Ms. McCall,” Jon said looking straight at her for the first time. “This is my crime scene.”

His glare was hard, unflinching, but Sage had no intention of moving one inch.

“And you don’t understand, Chief Maddux, this is my television production!” Sage said her small feet firmly planted on the floor. She met his accusing eyes without flinching and for good measure added, “I’m going nowhere.”

Behind her, Double K folded his arms emphasizing their immobility.

Jon Maddux glared at her. She quickly realized this man was used to having his own way.

“Look,” Sage said, hoping to defuse the situation, “We know how to stay out of your way. Double K was a member of LAPD, and I have experience in the field. We won’t hamper your investigation.”

Jon grunted. He didn’t appear convinced. “Who would shoot this guy with a bow and arrow?” he asked aloud, turning his attention away from Sage and back to Evan Davis.

“The arrow didn’t kill him,” Sage pointed out. “Look, there is minimal blood around the entry wound.”

Jon bent on one knee and examined the wound on Evan Davis chest.

“You’re right,” he said with grudging respect, “So, he was shot post mortem. Why?”

Sage shook her head. She knew his question was rhetorical, but with a slight shrug of her shoulders, continued in a cool tone, “He wasn’t the most likable guy on the set.”

“The medical examiner is on his way.” Jon said, the response holding a heavy note of impatience. His voice was cold as he turned to her. “Look, can you to keep your people out of here until our men go through the scene?”

It was at that moment that Hillary Kenyon returned, sweeping through the set as if she were on her way to a Hollywood premiere.

“I’m in charge here,” she announced her arms flaying dramatically as she rushed toward them. “I’m in charge here!”

“Who the hell is she?” Jon asked under his breath.

“The director,” Sage replied, keeping her voice low.

“Look,” Hillary said as she came near, “I have a heavy day of shooting, so do what you need to do and get him off my set. Thank you.”

“This is a crime scene, Miss….”

“Kenyon,” Sage supplied him.

“Ms. Kenyon," Jon continued to Hillary, “No one is filming anything in here until I say you can!”

“Sage,” Hillary demanded.

“Chief Maddux, how long do you think this will take?” Sage asked, already knowing the answer. She wasn’t about to tell Hillary this could take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Jon Maddux shook his head. In a voice, that was barely civil, he said, “Until I have a forensic team in here, I’m not making any promises.”

Hillary sniffed indignantly and glared at the corpse. “I’m sorry but that simply won’t do.”

Sage saw the anger flash in Jon’s eyes and quickly interjected, “Double K, would you see if you can help Ms. Kenyon get organized? We’re going to have a Crime Scene Unit and more cops here shortly. Perhaps the two of you could get Oz or someone in Craft Services up to fix coffee and …”

She stopped allowed her mouth to twist into what she hoped was a tantalizing smile. Looking at Jon, she sarcastically added, “Make sure we have plenty of donuts.”

His gaze caught and held hers. Amusement flickered in his eyes, and then they grew dark and unfathomable, compelling and magnetic. She was unnerved.

Hillary’s soft cry stole her attention. Sage watched in horror as Hillary placed the back of her hand on her forehead. Oh please, Sage thought, not now, Hillary!

“This is too much,” Hillary whimpered, “I’m going to lie down. I don’t know how I will tell Nick McMasters.”

“My father is probably with him by now, Hillary,” Sage announced, fearing this would evoke another hysterical response. It did. Hillary’s mouth dropped open in surprise.

“What! I should have been the one who called him!” she wailed, “You can’t begin to know how inconvenient this is! It’s going to send costs sky high!”

“Think about the ratings, Hillary,” Sage said under her breath. Sage was rewarded with an instant smile. “Yes, yes, you are right!” Hillary said as her mouth curved into a soft smile. “The ratings will go right through the roof.”

Hillary stopped and looked at Double K.

“If you don’t mind, Mr. Kendrick, Sage is right. Do go and wake up the Craft Service people. I have to go and call Nick McMasters.”

Double K stared long and hard at Hillary. Sage knew he hated being treated like a go-fer. He turned back to Sage.

“Well, I was getting hungry anyway,” Double K said with a yawn. “’I’ll see what I can do about some coffee.”

Jon looked at Sage as Hillary left with Double K in tow.

“Do you always control everyone around you with such diplomacy, Ms. McCall?”

“In this business,” Sage replied, offering him a soft smile, “you have to.”

“What do you know about this guy? You say he was an electrician?”

Sage nodded. “Apparently in his day, one of the best."

“Any idea why someone would shoot him after he was dead?”

Sage shook her head. Jon stared at her. She looked away, trying to avoid his velvet brown eyes.

“Any other vices, especially ones that would get him murdered?”

“Not that I know of,” Sage replied, “I’ll ask the crew. The Best Boy knows him better than anyone else. He may have some answers.”

“The Best Boy?”

“His assistant,” Sage explained. She boldly met his eyes.

“I’ve noticed those positions at the end of a movie but never quite knew what they were or did,” Jon replied with a half yawn. He sounded disinterested.

“Look, I know you don’t like us in your town,” Sage began.

“You got that right, Miss McCall.” Jon snapped making no attempt to hide his disdain. His comment sent her temper soaring. Her shock at his ill manners turned to rage but she knew full well she could not afford the luxury of meeting his challenge. In a cool voice, she replied, “Nevertheless, we are here. I think it would behoove us both to work together.”

Jon remained motionless.

“The sooner we get to shoot the show, the sooner we get out of your town, Chief.”

Jon’s dark brown eyes turned black with anger. The silence between them was unbearable.

“We may look like a backwater Florida town to you, Miss McCall, but unfortunately this isn’t our first homicide.”

“Nor mine,” Sage lied evenly.

“Look,” Jon said his angry gaze sweeping over her, “just stay out of my way!”

This was neither the time nor the place to argue with him. Deciding she would choose the next battle and battleground, she nodded in compliance. Whether she wanted to or not, she was going to be forced to work with this man or more likely work around him.

“And just so I make myself perfectly clear in this, Miss Hollywood, if it were up to me, you wouldn’t even be in my town.”

Giving him a cold smile, Sage said pointedly, “Well fortunately for us, it’s not up to you, is it?”

Whatever he was about to say was lost as the bright red flashing lights of a rescue squad heralded the arrival of the Levy County EMS.

Jon scarcely looked at her as he walked outside to greet the new arrivals. Sage stood for a moment debating whether to follow or not. Moments later two EMS technicians and a disheveled older man in a Hawaiian shirt, presumably the Medical Examiner and a police officer walked into the set. They followed Jon Maddux’s lead to where she was standing.

The four men stood looking wide eyed at the cameras and the television production set before gazing down at the corpse.  No one spoke.

At last, the ME bent down and looked at Evan, taking care to look at both sides of his face.

“He has been dead for a while,” the doctor said rising to his feet. He looked at Sage, “Any idea what happened here, young lady?”

“Sage McCall,” Sage said offering her hand, “I’m Security Chief for the Production Company. One of my men found the body around 2:30.”

The doctor accepted her hand and shook it firmly. “Dr. Edwards. Nice to meet you.”

Sage continued, “We wrapped filming early last evening. To my knowledge the set was empty for the most part after that time.”

“Isn’t that your responsibility?” Jon asked his voice dripping with accusation.

“No,” Sage matched his cool remark, “that is not my responsibility. My responsibility is to keep outsiders off the set, not the production crew who are free to come and go as they like.”

“When I first saw you, I thought you might be an actress,” Dr. Edwards interjected in an effort to defuse the open hostility between the Chief or Police and the Studio’s Security Chief. Dr. Edwards added in a soft tone to Sage, “You are certainly pretty enough.”

“Thank you,” Sage said to the Doctor without ever taking her eyes Jon. Chief.

Double K returned and gave Sage a quick nod. She smiled in return knowing coffee and an elaborate array of ham biscuits, croissants and pasties would be available for everyone shortly.

Jon turned to his men, who were both donning plastic gloves. One reached in the black bag and retrieved a 35 mm camera.

The second officer pulled out a video camera. Sage knew he would be panning the entire crime scene and giving viewers of the tape a realistic look at the production set, the body and details of the crime scene that the officer’s note pad couldn’t capture.

“Take plenty of photos.” Jon snapped. Turning back to Sage he asked, “Can we get more light on in here?”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Sage offered giving Jon a long and hard look before she turned to the still dark far corner of the production set.

Cursing her way through the darkness, she bumped twice into some heavy camera equipment. Almost over to the fuse box, she fell over a large, strangely soft object lying across her path. She hit the floor hard but was not hurt. Thinking she had fallen over a piece of rolled carpet, she turned over, pressing the palms of her hands onto the cool wood floor.

As she righted herself, she heard Jon Maddux and Double K call out her name. Their voices were distant. She could hear the men moving toward her.

She focused instead on the mound that was beginning to take shape in the darkness. She felt the stickiness on the palms of hands. Too late she noticed what seemed to be a tiny puddle of dark liquid seeping, with a life of its own, running, and filling in the places between her fingertips. Her eyes adjusted to the faint light coming toward her from the other the side of the production set. She looked back to the heavy swell lying across her path. It seemed out of place even on a busy production set.

The taste of horror rose within her. Icy fingers raced across the hair on the nape of her neck. She held her next breath. The dark outline shifted in the dim light and took on human shape. She had fallen over a second body.





Linn Random,author,romance,mystery,suspense novelist,e-books