Fifty: Morning Headlines

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Episode 6, Part 2

Broadband TV Corporate Headquarters
Vancouver, B.C.

“Up for another extracurricular project, Barbara?”

“Sure, Ms. Patel.”

“Well, you really earned your afternoon off by finding me Jerry’s contact information last month, so I’d like to make you a similar deal.”

Janice pushed a sheet of paper across the desk.

“If you can do the same for every person on this list, then consider next week a paid vacation.  They’re all Hillside alumni, too, though I’m not sure who might be married or just using a different name.  You know the drill: e-mails, phone numbers, home or work addresses – anything I can use to make contact.”

“Consider it done!”

“You’re the best, Barb.”

*************************

Provincial Court of British Columbia
Vancouver District

The judge’s sober baritone permeated the cramped courtroom like the tolling of a funeral bell.

“Ashley Walker!  Please approach the bench.”

Dylan gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she rose to face the judge.

“Mrs. Walker, in accordance with the Controlled Drugs & Substances Act, your case has been remanded from the Ontario Court of Justice to the Drug Treatment Court of Vancouver.  You are currently in my courtroom for violating the original warrant issued to you by the provincial authorities of Ontario and failing to appear at your initial appearance to face a charge of driving under the influence causing property damage.  Further charges that may be pursued by the local authorities will constitute a separate issue and are not pertinent to these proceedings.   Once these charges have been read, you have the right to retain counsel to represent you throughoot the case.  So again, Mrs. Walker, I am informing you that you have been charged with dishonor of a duly issued criminal warrant and failure to appear at a scheduled hearing.  Do you understand the charges?”

“yes, your honor.”

“Mrs. Walker, after reviewing the case history along with your prescription information from multiple medical practices forwarded as evidentiary material from the originating court, it is my opinion that before facing the criminal charges read to you today, you will need to complete a 28 day inpatient program at the Options Vancouver Treatment Center.  You will not be taken into custody today, but it is your responsibility to contact the facility within the next 48 hours, at which time the facility will confirm your scheduled check-in date with the Court.  Your admission date shall be no later than one week from today.  Do you understand this ruling and what is expected of you, Mrs. Walker?”

“yes, your honor.”

“Are you currently under the influence of any alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise?”

“no, your honor.”

“Then you are free to go under the conditions set by the Court.”

“thank you, your honor.”

Ashley walked back to her seat and collapsed into Dylan’s arms until the bailiff appeared, tugged lightly at her sleeve and directed them to leave the courtroom.

*************************

ARIA TV Studio
North Vancouver, B.C.

Matt tried to pull himself together before entering the studio, but he knew there was no hiding the fact that W Network’s up-and-coming celebrity realtor was a shaky, sweaty mess just two days ahead of the show’s scheduled premiere.  He took a deep breath and went inside where Craig was waiting in the lobby.

“Oh, hey.  Good morning, Craig.”

“Hi, Matt.  Let’s take a walk to the donut shop so we can talk for a few minutes.”

Craig’s usual boisterous energy was worrisomely subdued and Matt steeled himself for the worst as they strolled silently down the block to The Harmony Donut Shop.  They ordered coffees and took them ootside to the empty patio area.

“Listen, Matt, I’m not gonna beat around the bush.  I read in The Sun this morning aboot the little incident you were involved in over the weekend.”

“Craig, I don’t know what to say.  I mean, you know how it goes sometimes…when the drinks, the whole night…just sort of goes off the rails.”

“Yeah…of course, I do, Matt.  But there’s a dead hooker involved in this one…that’s gonna be a little tough for our P.R. department to spin.”

“I swear, Craig, I had no idea she was so high when we…”

“Matt, you don’t need to explain this to me.  I tried to go to bat for you, but their minds were already made up. They’re going to can the show.”

Matt bit his lip and stared at the traffic whizzing by on Lonsdale Ave.

“What aboot the premiere?”

“Sorry.  The station will just re-air a sitcom or something in its place.  I know this would have been something great, Matt, and I was really looking forward to working with you, but this…is just a bit too much.  This is the kind of thing that can end the careers of even the biggest celebrities.  You’re talented, Matt…but you’re not a celebrity and the network just doesn’t know what to do with this.”

“Right.  I understand, Craig.  Thanks for trying.”

“Do you think you’ll be heading back to The Six?”

“Probably…I mean, it’s the only place where I’ve established any sort of a reputation.  Well, a good reputation, anyway.  But uh…I’ve gotta stick around long enough to face the charges.”

“When’s your court date?”

“A week from today.”

“Call me.  I’ll be there.”

“Thanks, Craig.  I appreciate that.”

Craig got up and shook Matt’s hand.  For a long moment, Matt stared after him as he walked back toward the studios. With unblinking bloodshot eyes, he watched the opportunity of a lifetime disappear into a faceless throng of pedestrians.

*************************

Lonsdale Quay Hotel
North Vancouver, B.C.

Arseman and Jake sat in adjacent chaise lounges on the deck of the indoor pool.  Suddenly, Arseman gasped and handed Jake the copy of The Sun she’d been perusing, open to the Metro Crime section.

“Um, Jake?  Brace yourself, then read the second article from the top.”

Jake’s brow furrowed as he read.

“Oh fuck.”

“Yeah.”

“I knew something like this would happen.”

“You knew Matt would be picked up for DUI with a dead prostitute in tow?”

“I knew he’d fuck up royally.  Jesus, Arseman, why didn’t we say more to him at the bar?”

“And what do you think that would have accomplished?  You know how this works.  If Matt doesn’t want to throw his life away, he’s got to make that choice on his own.”

“We should get in touch with Ashley.  I mean, Matt said she was in town, right?”

“Yeah, but the last number I had for her is from over a decade ago.  I guess it’s worth a shot.  This is some seriously fucked up déjà vu.”

“Who says you can’t live your high school years again, right?”

“Sure, and then maybe we can even go back a little further and revisit our salad days of diaper rash and colic.”

“Well, this homecoming is sure shaping up to be one hell of a bummer.”

“We can always look at the bright side, Jake.”

“What bright side?”

“At least Brooke isn’t here.”

“Thank God for small mercies, eh?”

*************************

Vancouver, B.C.

Brooke and Stacy rounded the corner and immediately stopped in their tracks.

“The Venue?”

“Huh.  Well, I guess that’s no surprise.  I mean, The Avalon was a shithole.”

“True, but it was our shithole.  Doesn’t it make you a little sad that it’s gone?”

“I’m playing the world’s smallest violin, Stace.”

“But you were the one who wanted to come here.”

“Yes, but not for a trip down Bad Memory Lane.  I was hoping I might run into someone who could get me in touch with Ashley.”

“Ashley Fraser?”

“Yeah.”

“Really?  I didn’t think you were very fond of her.”

“Exactly.  And I sure went oot of my way to make that abundantly clear, which is what cements her place on my…”

“…bucket list?”

“Right.  I appreciate the pains you take to express things delicately, Stace.”

“I’m sorry…but do we really need to mince words here, Brooke?  You’re the one who’s been talking like cancer’s already won the battle ever since we left Toronto, but you don’t exactly fit my mental image of someone who’s dying.  Have the doctors told you something I should know?”

“No.  I guess I’ve just been bracing for the worst by treating it as a foregone conclusion.  But some days are really bad.”

A tear sliced through the mascara on Brooke’s cheek as she took Stacy’s hand between hers.

“I need you to make me a promise, Stacy.”

“Sure, Brooke.  Anything.”

“If I don’t make it long enough to accomplish what I’ve come here to do, I need you to make sure it gets done.  All of it.”

“Of course.”

“Do you think you can pull it off?”

“No.”

“No?”

“I think you can pull it off.  But I’ll be right by your side, no matter how long it takes.  That much I can promise.”

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