Book Excerpt - Dial Emmy for Murder

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dial Emmy For Murder: A Soap Opera Mystery ~ Eileen Davidson

304 p, Signet, ISBN: 978-0451228253

Alexis Peterson’s days are filled with scheming, backstabbing, adultery and murder. She is a soap opera star, after all. But a new role has her feeling like she’s in the horror business.

Tabloids and fans are stunned when soap star Alexis Peterson leaves her popular show for another soap, but she’s too busy preparing for her new job as a presenter at the Daytime Emmy® Awards to notice. When her co-presenter goes missing on award night, Alex realizes she has another murder mystery on her hands.Working behind the scenes to find out how her costar could have met such an end, Alex invites handsome Detective Frank Jakes back into her life. But first Alex must focus on finding the killer before she sees another one of Hollywood’s brightest stars burn out. Who knew soap operas could get so dirty?

Chapter 1

“Alex! Alex! This way!”

“No, this way, Alex—your left!”

“Over here, Alex!”

“Great dress, Alexis. Who are you wearing?”

I exited the limo, making sure not to flash anyone. Just then a crowd of fans caught sight of me and burst into screams.

“Alex, we love you! We love you! Why did you leave The Yearning Tide?”

Why did I leave? How could I stay on that show when the entire cast and crew had believed that I murdered the head writer? Could you work with a bunch of people who thought you were capable of such a horrendous thing?

But now I worked on The Bare and the Brazen and it was a great gig. I played two characters, one of which looked completely different from myself! I had a prosthetic nose and false teeth (made by the same guy who did Austin Powers’s). The hours were a little long sometimes because of the dual roles, but I was having a helluva good time. The primary character, Felicia Stewart, a psychiatrist, is the heroine of the show. She has a not-so-attractive twin sister, Fanny Stewart, who was given up for adoption and raised in the South. Fanny has bad teeth and an attitude to match. She’s jealous of her sister and always up to no good. Fanny’s the fun one to play, but then it’s always more fun to be bad. Unfortunately that can be true in real life, too.

As I turned and smiled, I was assaulted by a multitude of flashbulbs exploding in my face. My manager, Connie, grabbed my elbow and steered me past the paparazzi.

“Al, Entertainment Tonight wants to talk to you— right up ahead.”

“I can’t, Connie.” I felt a drop of sweat traveling from between my shoulder blades down to the small of my back.

“What do you mean, you can’t? It’s ET, for God’s sake. Please just get over yourself and talk to them.”

“Connie, you’re on my train. I seriously mean I can’t go talk to them.” I gestured to the rear of my dress, and sure enough, Connie’s spike-heeled Manolo Blahnik was pinning me to the red carpet.

“Oh! Sorry, doll.” She moved off my dress and ushered me over to the ET reporter. “Jeez, it’s gotta be a hundred degrees out here. Why is it always so damn hot at the Daytime Emmys? I’m dying.” She dabbed at her bronze face.

“I know what you’re saying, Con,” I told my manager. “I feel like my face is melting.”

“You look great, doll. Just do your thing!”

Mary Hart thrust a large microphone with the letters ET in my face.

“Alexis, thanks for talking with us. So, how does it feel to be here tonight representing a different show?”

“It’s great! I’m having so much fun. The cast and crew of The Bare and the Brazen are terrific. And you know, after all the drama of last year, it’s nice to make a fresh start.”

“We understand you’ll be presenting Outstanding Supporting Actor with Jackson Masters. Now, there’s a hunk!”

“Yes, I’m very excited about it. Jackson’s a sweetheart.”

“Thanks so much for talking to us, Alexis. You look amazing. Who are you wearing?”

I was dying to tell them I was wearing Vintage Chanel and diamonds by Van Cleef & Arpels. But before I could answer, the mike was quickly whisked away from my face and shoved into the more indemand face of Ellen DeGeneres. “Ellen, you look amazing tonight. . . .”

Connie’s gravelly voice cut through the wall of noise. “By the way, Al, the stage manager asked me if you’d seen Jackson. He never showed up for rehearsal.”

“No, I haven’t. But he always blows off rehearsals.

He’ll probably run up there at the last minute. He loves to jerk people’s chains.”

I proceeded up the steps to the Kodak Theatre and took a deep breath. Bells were ringing, letting everyone know the show was about to start.

“Please take your seats; we start in five minutes. Five minutes, everyone!” came blasting over the PA system.

The Kodak Theatre was a fairly new award venue and part of a very large and expensive attempt to overhaul Hollywood Boulevard. They had done a good job. There were various floors with bars, restaurants and shops connected to the theater.

I gingerly walked down the aisle, being careful not to trip on my train, and found my seat in the front row.

“Hi, Elmo!” Now, that was exciting. Elmo from Sesame Street was sitting in my row. Well, the great Kevin Clash and his alter ego, Elmo. I had to get a photo with the famous puppeteer. My five-year-old daughter, Sarah, would be thrilled.

“Hey, Alex.” I looked over and saw Lisa Daley smiling at me from the Yearning Tide section.

“Hey, Lisa. How are you?” Lisa was one of the few people on The Tide who had remained my friend after I left the show. Some of the other actors, though, guiltily looked away. My feelings had been hurt when I learned how many people had thought I was capable of actually killing another human being. But I guess in hindsight I couldn’t blame them, really. It had looked pretty bad.

The head writer had given me a very hard time, trying to get me written off the show. A shouting match started between us that was witnessed by, um, everyone in the production office. And then that same writer ended up bludgeoned to death with her Emmy. If the situation had been reversed, I probably would have thought the same thing.

“Take your seats, people. We’re counting down to live television! One minute . . . one minute.”

Chapter 2

The stage manager ran up to me in a panic, which is never good with one minute left.

“Ms. Peterson, could you please come backstage and get ready to present? Have you seen Mr. Masters?”

“No. You still haven’t found him?”

I scanned the room. We were presenting the first award. This was cutting it close even for Jackson. I grabbed my train and hustled backstage into all the commotion. Hair and makeup sat me down in a chair facing a portable makeup station complete with fifteen blazing-hot lightbulbs. They gave me the onceover with powder and hairspray.

There was a mad dash as stragglers took their seats. As I moved to the wings, a sudden loud explosion of music enveloped the stage.

“Thirty seconds . . . twenty seconds. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three and we are live!”

I’ve often wondered why they bothered counting down when they never seemed to get to number one.

“Welcome to the thirty-ninth annual Daytime Emmy Awards, hosted by Rachael Ray and Jerry Springer.” Thunderous applause erupted for the two stars.

There must have been at least three thousand fans seated in the theater, and as Rachael and Jerry walked onto the stage, they burst into cheers and applause.

“Welcome,” said Rachael. “Tonight is going to be an exciting evening, isn’t it, Jerry?”

“Yes, Rachael, it is. And it’s my pleasure to be hosting this illustrious event with someone as lovely and charming as you.”

“Oh, thank you, Jerry. Looking out at the crowd, I see the finest in daytime television are here. All the talk shows, game shows, children’s shows, cooking shows and, of course, the best of the best in daytime dramas are being represented.”

“Well, then, let’s get to it, Rachael.”

“Yes, let’s. Our first presenters are one hot couple. She’s proven that forty really is the new twenty. And if that’s true, then he’s proof that twenty must be the new embryo. From The Bare and the Brazen, it’s two-time Emmy winner Alexis Peterson and the gorgeous newcomer Jackson Masters.”

Who wrote this stuff, anyway? I hesitated. More important, should I go on without Jackson or what? I looked at the stage manager questioningly for direction. The producer of the event, Dave Crane, ran up to me.

“Alexis! Just go without him. Make sure to read his part of the cue cards. Can you do that?”

“Yeah, Dave, of course. . . . I’ll do my best.”

I carefully walked out onto the top step of the epic staircase and into the mouth of this huge theater. An explosive burst of applause and screams greeted me from the balconies and arena seating, where all the fans were going wild. Without Jackson to lean on for support, I knew it would take every fiber of my being not to trip on my train as I tried to make it down twelve perilous steps to finally get to the stage. I took my time as I cautiously felt my way down the stairs, smiling and looking as if I did this in four-inch heels every day of my life. Why did I wear this stupid dress with this stupid train? Oh, yeah: it was worth ten thousand dollars. And it was free.

I took the last step. I made it. I sighed with relief as I approached the microphone that was poking out of the stage floor.

“Good evening. I’m here to present the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.” I looked behind me one last time. No Jackson. “Unfortunately, my costar is nowhere to be found! Probably somewhere doing push-ups, ha-ha! You think he was born with that six-pack?” Not so great but the best I could come up with on the spur of the moment. Give me a break! I was thinking on my feet. I quickly looked at the next cue card and read Jackson’s lines.

“The nominees for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series are . . . Jamie Martin, The Best Days Are Ahead.” I paused as they ran a quick clip of each actor’s work. “Thad Weber, The Depths of the Sea. Don Duncan, The Tears of Tomorrow. Roman Stroud, The Yearning Tide. Vance Mckenzie, Too Late for Yesterday. And the winner is . . .“

As I began to open the envelope, I felt something drip on my nose. I knew I was sweaty, but this was ridiculous. I quickly brushed off my nose. Weird. My fingers were red. I glanced at them quizzically and then it registered. Blood! I looked up. Something was hanging in the rafters far above the stage. Slowly my mind wrapped around what I was seeing. A body.

And a dead one at that.

Just as the horror set in, the body disengaged from whatever it was hanging from and dropped several feet. Poised in midair, still attached to a chain, it began to spin around and around . . . and then it dropped again.

Right next to me.

Right where Jackson was supposed to be. The crowd sat stunned. I tried not to but couldn’t help looking at the distorted, bloated face.

It was Jackson!

Reprinted from DIAL EMMY FOR MURDER by Eileen Davidson by arrangement with Obsidian, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright (c) 2009 by Eileen Davidson.

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