Hollywood Tough

Stephen J. Cannell

Chapter 1


Shane Scully sure didn't want to go to this Hollywood party. It was way the hell out in Malibu, and except for Nora Bishop, he and his wife, Alexa, weren't going to know anybody there. The party was to announce Nora's engagement to a movie producer named Farrell Champion, whom neither of them had met. Making it even worse, Shane and Alexa were cops and would probably stand out like psychiatrists at a Star Trek convention. They didn't understand movie people or Hollywood, with its strange language and customs. So Shane was more or less dreading it.

Alexa, on the other hand, could barely contain her excitement. She had spent at least two hours getting ready, which to tell the truth kind of pissed him off. One of the things he prized most about his beautiful black- haired wife was that she never made a big deal out of her appearance. She could show up most places wearing a horse blanket and look better than anybody there.

But all afternoon she had dithered and fussed until it had made them hopelessly late.

'You think these earrings are too gaudy? You think this blue-and-red scarf is too much with the tan skirt…?'

'No, looks great… love it…' But it didn't matter what he thought, because she would just wrinkle her nose and stare at the clothing on the bed, then pull out a new ensemble.

Shane had dressed quickly, showering and combing his short black hair with his fingers. He glanced at his rugged angular face in the mirror. He was in his late thirties and his bony cheeks and hard, deep-set eyes reminded him of an over-the-hill, beat-up street fighter. It always surprised him when someone described him as handsome. At least, he marveled, he'd been lucky enough to jump the many hurdles required to marry the most beautiful woman on the LAPD.

They finally got in his Acura at five-thirty, left Venice, California, and headed toward Malibu. They were almost an hour late when they passed the old Getty Museum, then the Malibu Pier. Shane drove while Alexa chattered nervously.

'That last guy Nora dated, remember him, Shane? The one who traded futures on the stock exchange?'

'Yeah. Bill something, with the dimple in his chin…'

'That flicking dimple was a surgical add-on,' Alexa growled. 'Boy, was I glad when Nora gave him the old flusheroo.'

'Yep. Bill was sleaze.'

'And remember Paul Bennett? Remember him? How on earth Nora ever decided to get entangled with Paul Bennett, with his polo ponies, which everyone thought he owned but it turned out he just rented, and the rented Ferrari… he should've rented a personality.'

'Yeah, Paul was definitely toe-jam. A skunk.'

She turned and looked at him. 'Are you humoring me, buddy?' She smiled.

'I agree Nora's been flying in a bug storm, but we don't know anything about this new guy either, except that he has a great press agent. He's in almost every national magazine.'

'Whatta you mean we don't know? I've been talking to Nora about Farrell Champion since she started to decorate his Malibu house last year. He's the real deal-A-list all the way and she's so happy, Shane. At last I think she's found Mr. Right.'

'Yep, yep… pretty exciting.' God, he was dreading this party.

When they passed the Serra Retreat, the former mansion of the woman who once owned twenty miles of California coastline, Shane slowed the Acura and picked up the expensive invitation. It had a slightly corny Hollywood theme. On the top of the embossed card it said: 'It's a Wrap on Farrell's Bachelorhood.' There were some old-fashioned drawings of 35mm movie cameras, underscored by the inscription: 'Come Help Us Celebrate Farrell's Biggest Epic Yet… It's a Love Story.'

He flipped it open to the map that showed where Farrell Champion's house was located behind the Colony gates in Malibu.

'I hate being late. Maybe we should just call in sick,' he suggested, grinning.

'Nothing doing, you coward. Besides, I want to see the stars. I hear Julia Roberts is going to be there. Farrell produced one of her movies last year, and Nora said even Robert Downey, Jr.'

'Shit, and us without our drug kits.'

She punched him. 'Stop it.' She smiled. 'You're gonna love it.'

Seconds later they turned off the Coast Highway into the Colony. They pulled up to the guard, who frowned at the unwashed Acura. Then came the ritual giving and checking of names, the showing of the invitation.

They were validated.

A short drive down into the Malibu Colony and they were handing the dusty Acura over to a valet with surfer-blond hair wearing a red coat with gold buttons. It fit him better than Shane's blue blazer. Another valet was just driving a white Bentley away from in front of the house.

There were still a few tardy arrivals lined up at the front door. 'See, we're not that late,' Alexa said as she and Shane headed up the stone walkway.

Farrell Champion had built a French Provincial on two oceanfront lots. The house was grotesquely large, dwarfing its neighbors, and Shane thought it seemed pretentious and out of place, only forty yards from the crashing surf.

They got in line behind a beautiful woman who was wearing a beaded dress, very low cut, and an older gentleman with silver hair in a tuxedo with a black silk shirt-they looked like Bentley owners.

'We're underdressed,' Alexa hissed in his ear as she looked at the woman's evening gown. Alexa had ended up wearing a white pantsuit with a wide belt and sandals. She looked gorgeous. Her blue eyes and sculpted face dominated a slender, athletic body.

Shane whispered back, 'How can you underdress for a beach barbecue?'

The couple in front stepped over the threshold and Shane could hear a booming voice he guessed was Farrell Champion's, followed by Nora Bishop's tinkling laugh.

'Boris.' Farrell's baritone. 'Great opening weekend grosses on Horizon of the Damned. You're up five percent prorated from holiday weekend totals last year.'

'But the P and A sure set us back a bundle,' the tuxedoed man replied. 'It's a step release. We're going wide next week… twenty-six hundred screens.'

'Thelma, you look devastating, as always…' Farrell again.

'Sorry about being so overdressed, Farrell. We're leaving here for Calvin's opening at the Taper.'

Shane heard Alexa let out a sigh.

After a few air kisses, Thelma and Boris moved on. Alexa was holding Shane's hand and she gave it a little hopeful squeeze. It was their turn. Show time.

They stepped into the magnificent, antiques-laden entry hall and Shane hugged Nora. She was a beautiful, dark-haired, forty-five-year-old woman with a sweet, tender quality that always made him want to protect her. She was also one of L. A.'s premiere interior decorators. In the last few years, Bishop Interiors had done a lot of the big homes in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and the Palisades. And despite her exposure to some of L. A.'s most demanding A- type personalities, Nora never provoked any discontent. She had a way of getting you to behave by making you feel good about yourself. She was ten years older than Alexa, and had been Alexa's baby-sitter back in Michigan when she was twelve. That was the year after Alexa's mother had died. Shane had always wondered if Nora's move to L. A. foreshadowed his wife's decision to come West as well, as if she needed to be close to Nora, who was like a big sister or maybe even a surrogate mother.

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