Special 1 – Amber Heights
Meanwhile, in Amber Heights…
A dark-gray bus rolls into Amber Heights from The Big City. This stop is the last one for only two of the bus’ many passengers. The first is Amber Heights’ own Kerstin Waterford, returning home for the first time in many years. The second is Frank Denzre, a complete stranger to this town and everyone in it.
At the Waterford-Jordan offices, Lawrence Waterford barges into Oliver Jordan’s office, followed closely by Oliver’s secretary Vanessa.
“Jordan! We need to talk…”
“I’m so sorry, Mr. Jordan – he just walked right past me…”
“It’s okay, Vanessa,” Jordan assures her. “You can go.”
Vanessa turns and leaves the office, closing the doors behind herself.
“Jordan…” Lawrence begins, advancing a little closer to Oliver’s desk, but is cut short when Oliver raises his hand.
“Eve?” he says, seemingly to no one.
“Yes?” a voice says from Oliver’s speakerphone. Lawrence recognizes both the name and the voice; it’s Oliver’s attorney, Eve Nightingale.
“We’ll have to continue this later.”
“Yes, Mr. Jordan.”
Oliver reaches across his desk and disconnects the call before fully turning his attention to his business partner, who begins speaking again without hesitation.
“Jordan, tell me… who, exactly, is Harry Custone?”
The T & I is technically open, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the place. That’s typical for a weekday, though; most working folk eat lunch at places like The Cajun Cafe, and save The T & I for happy hour.
Jehua Stanley is behind the bar, sitting on a stool and watching a television that’s mounted to the wall.
He looks over at the door as it opens. The daylight streaming in is blinding to his eyes, so he squints hard until the door closes, revealing a man who has just walked in, fresh off a bus.
“Hi there, stranger,” Jehua says. “Have a seat anywhere.”
Frank Denzre walks up to the bar, but doesn’t sit down.
“I’ll have a whiskey sour.”
Price Fashion Boutique‘s sales floor is busy for a weekday. One sales girl is behind the register ringing up a rather attractive young woman while another is busy helping a mother and daughter pair find dresses for the girl’s fourteenth birthday gala.
Upstairs, in the Price offices, Leticia McKinelle sits behind her new desk, in her new office, staring off into space. She recently lost her father, Richard McKinelle, after a long and bitter fight with cancer.
A voice comes over her speakerphone. It’s the office secretary.
“There’s a woman here to see you. A Kerstin Waterford.”
At this, the haze Leticia had been trapped under since her father’s passing lifted, and she almost looked happy.
“Harry Custone,” Oliver Jordan begins, “is our top advertising executive.”
“Advertising executive my ass, Jordan!”
Lawrence Waterford is flustered; obviously very upset. Oliver Jordan, on the other hand, appears unaffected by his grandstanding.
“What has he been doing for you? I know the two of you are up to something!”
“Lawrence, Lawrence – calm down,” Oliver says as he rises from his office chair. “Keep this up, and you’ll give yourself a heart attack.”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Jordan,” Lawrence continues, while Oliver walks around from behind his desk to face his partner. “I’ve been suspicious of that man ever since you hired him. And now I find out he’s been snooping around in my personal business?!”
“Lawrence, please. I’m not playing dumb. Harry Custone is our best advertising man, bar none.”
Lawrence Waterford assesses the man standing in front of him; he’s looking for signs that he’s lying, but is unable to find any.
“He just also happens to be excellent at…” Oliver pauses, thinking of what to say next. “Well,” he continues, “let’s just say he’s been a big help to me in getting what I want. And what I want, Lawrence, is this company.”
At this, Lawrence is greatly taken aback. The two men have never been friends, nor have they ever really liked each other; but together their business was a solid one. To have him so brazenly and openly admit to an attempted betrayal is surprising, to say the least.
“And I’m so close, Lawrence” Oliver says as he steps just a little closer to the man he’s currently trying to stab in the back. “I’m so close to taking over, I can almost taste it.”
Frank Denzre is still standing at the bar, drinking alone, when Kerstin and Leticia enter The T & I talking up a storm. They don’t break pace or conversation as they head straight for a booth and sit down.
“So what happens now?” Kerstin asks. “What will you do – and what about Pinewood Manor?”
“Oh,” Leticia replies, “Daddy left Pinewood to Mildred.”
At this, Kerstin looks nonplussed.
“Well we’ve had that planned for a long time now,” Leticia explains. “Daddy never remarried, no one’s talked to Pamela in years, and I just want to live there – I don’t want to own the place…”
“So he left it to the maid?” Kerstin asks.
“Well,” Leticia retorts, “not ‘just the maid’, Kerstin. You know as well as anyone, she’s practically apart of the family.”
At this point, Jehua Stanley approaches the table.
“Hi, Leticia,” he says, timidly. “I’m sorry to hear about your father.”
“Thanks, Jehua,” she says, as a shadow of the haze she’d been in returns to her face for a moment. “Jehua, this is Kerstin – Kerstin, Jehua.”
The two nod hello.
“Can I get you ladies some drinks?”
“Oh, yes,” Kerstin responds, looking from Jehua to her dear old friend, then back. “We definitely need some drinks.”
Giulia Pagani, Amber Heights’ District Attorney, is sitting at her desk going over paperwork when her secretary enters her office.
“Ma’am? There’s a Harry Custone here to see you.”
“Harry Custone?” Giulia replies. “What’s he here for?”
“He says he has important information about Waterford-Jordan, and that he’ll only talk to you.”
This piques Giulia’s interest. Waterford-Jordan is big; so big that it can’t possibly be free from it’s own share of scandals and corruption. This might just be something worth hearing.
“Send him in.”
It’s nearly five o’clock, and The T & I is beginning to fill up.
“What’s my tab?” asks Frank Denzre.
Jehua looks and replies, “$42.50.”
Frank drops a fifty dollar bill on the bar, and walks out.
Giulia sits in stunned silence. If what she was just told is true, both her career and the fate of this town will be changed forever.
“And you have evidence of this?”
“I have some,” Harry replies. “But I know there’s more that I just can’t get to. If you subpoena the…”
Giulia cuts Harry short by raising her hand. She’s already way ahead of him; so far ahead, in fact, that her mind is buzzing with the details. A case like this will take years, but the payoff will be tremendous.
Harry’s mind is hard at work as well, thinking of his future. Once Lawrence Waterford is locked behind bars, Oliver Jordan will run this town; with Harry Custone at his side, of course.
Later that night a taxi pulls up to the door at Pinewood Manor. Kerstin pays the driver and neither she nor Leticia have an easy time getting out of the car.
“We are so wasted,” Kerstin muses.
“Thank you so much,” Leticia says as the taxi pulls away, “for coming to visit me.”
The girls help each other stumble towards the door to the home.
“No problem,” Kerstin replies, dismissing the sentiment with a wave of her hand. “You’re my best friend, Let. I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Leticia says.
They stand together on the doorstep for a long moment, looking at each other in the moonlight. Then all the emotions and feelings they’d had for each other all those years ago come flooding back, and they kiss, passionately and without hesitation.
Kerstin is suddenly very glad she came back home after all this time.
And, somewhere in Amber Heights, Frank Denzre dances drunkenly on an empty street corner, where he then proceeds to vomit forty-two dollars and fifty cents worth of booze all over himself.
Many thanks to Craig at Word Cereal for providing the glimpse into the alternate reality universe of Amber Heights for our first April First event.Tags:Alternate Universe