When the thug tells him that’s she’s not at the Malibu clinic, he becomes furious. He throws his phone across the room, causing his assistant to burst into his office, wondering what’s wrong.
He lies, says something about an investment gone bad, and sends her away.
A few days later, someone mentions a friend saw Keatyn at a rehab in Utah. Knowing a plane left for Utah the same day as the New York bound plane, he knows this is it.
He calls one of the thugs and sends him there, waiting for confirmation of what he already knows.
But once again, they come up empty.
But while he was waiting, he remembers the soccer player’s move to Oregon.
Curious, he decides to make the trip.
He goes to the boy’s high school, telling the secretary that he’s moving to town with his daughter. He inquires to as if there are any other new female students, hoping they could become fast friends. When the secretary tells him no, he briefly considers strangling her with his bare hands.
Nevertheless, he leaves the office. He waits in the parking lot for hours, then easily spots the soccer player and follows him home. He’s tired of this game, so he boldly goes to the boy’s front door and knocks on it.
The soccer player answers right away. Vincent quickly surveys the home, seeing no sign of anything girl-related in the messy abode. He feigns having the wrong address, but asks if there are any new families that live nearby. The boy says no.
Vincent stays and watches the house, follows the boy back to school a few hours later for a soccer match. He sits in the crowd during the game, hoping to spot her.
He goes back to Los Angeles feeling a sense of hopelessness.
A few days later, he finds mention of another rehab. He believes it to be a red herring, but sends a thug anyway. Same result.
He considers kidnapping Abby’s little girls, holding them ransom until they give him Lacy, but by the time he considers this the family has moved to Vancouver. He sends one of the thugs to the airport the family flew to, where the thug shows a man there Keatyn’s photo and is paid handsomely to notify him of her arrival.
She got on the plane to New York and hasn’t been seen since.
So where is she now?
Is she still there?
Living a new life?
It would make sense. It’s where he would go if he wanted to get lost.
He sends a team of men there to scour all the private schools in the city, searching for his Lacy.
They don’t find her.
He studies the surfer’s tour schedule and realizes that he will be in New York during the long Labor Day weekend. If she is in New York, surely she would go see him. Lacy loves Matt even though he’s not nearly good enough for her. Vincent decides to take matters into his own hands and go to the tournament himself. He’s tired of relying on private investigators and thugs.
And he has a feeling about this.
It’s like he and Lacy are connected somehow even when they are apart. And he’s certain she will be there.
When an invitation from an actor friend who hosts an annual all-white Labor Day party in the Hamptons arrives, he eagerly accepts. He’ll go to the tournament in Long Beach then skip up to the party.
And, if all goes well, he’ll have Lacy on his arm.
I stand around and watch while he finishes his autograph session. Watch girls fawn all over him, watch him loving it, and wonder what it all means.
But I know, just like Mom, if you’re going to be in the public eye, you have to do stuff like this. So I can’t fault him for it, and I shouldn’t take it personally. It has nothing to do with our relationship.
I mean, if we have a relationship.
Regardless, he’s my friend. I should be supportive.
But then he says, “Hey, I have to, uh, run somewhere real quick.” He puts his arm up and scratches the back of his head. “I’ll be back in a few. Uh, hold down the fort.”
I’ve known Brooklyn for a really long time and can read him well. The scratching of the head. The weird look in his eye.
There’s something he’s not telling me.
Plus, as he’s walking away, he glances back over his shoulder a few times. Like he’s making sure I stay put.
I know something’s going on, so I follow him.
I lose him in the crowd for a minute, but then I spot him. He’s talking to the big-boobed girl. I’m shocked when she lays a big kiss on his lips and pulls him into a changing tent.
About ten minutes later, they sneak back out. Him looking satisfied, and her just looking like a sleazy train wreck.
And I can barely believe it.
If you would have told me this, I never in a million years would’ve believed it.
I just saw it with my own eyes, and I still can’t believe it.
It’s one thing for him to kiss girls for publicity. It’s another thing entirely for him to be doing them in cabanas.
So much for his best friend love.
I’m so done with him. Like, forever.
I walk straight up to him and the girl. “It’s a good thing all we are to each other is friends, or I might’ve been really hurt by that. And I’d say, Have fun, enjoy your tournament, but you obviously already are. I’m outta here.”
I turn and walk away.
He leaves the girl standing there and comes after me. “But, Keats.”
He grabs my arm. “Don’t touch me.”
“Don’t leave,” he says.
I flip him off and continue walking toward the car.
He doesn’t follow me any further.
I hop back inside the dark-windowed town car, turn, and look for the driver. I had told him to wait here because I thought that after I talked to Brooklyn I would run my stuff to his hotel.
A crowd is still streaming in.
I’m getting ready to text my driver when a face causes me to look twice.
It looks like Vincent.
But it couldn’t be.
I look closer.
Shit. He’s got on the same yellow driving shoes he wore the night we had dinner.
It is him!
And he’s walking straight toward the car.
Straight toward me!
My first instinct is to hide.
I drop down below the window and start to shake.
What am I going to do? Should I call Garrett?
My phone. I go to the special app and hit it three times. 9-1-1.
The driver’s side door opens. I fall to the floor and try to make myself small.
Someone pats me on my back and I stifle a shriek.
The driver says, “Are you okay? Why are you on the floor?”
“Shut the door. And lock it, please,” I whisper. “These windows are tinted, aren’t they? Can anyone see me in here?”
“They are pretty darkly tinted. Someone would have to be very close to see inside.”
I peek up, see Vincent standing literally right next to the car. He stops to check himself in the window. He takes off his dark sunglasses and fixes an out of place hair.
My heart has stopped beating. I can’t breathe.
I’m still in shock. I can’t believe he would actually come all the way here to look for me.
“Don’t move,” I whisper to the driver. “See that guy there. Checking himself out in the window?”
“I can’t let him see me.”
“He looks like a actor,” the driver says. “Lover’s quarrel?”
“No, he tried to hurt me.”
“I’m sorry, Miss. What would you like me to do?”
“Don’t move. Keep the doors locked. Pray he doesn’t see me.”
Then I think about where he’s walking. Toward Brooklyn.
My phone is buzzing. First a call from the spa and then one from Garrett.
I take Garrett’s call. I whisper into the phone. “Shhh.”
Garrett says, “Are you okay? Did you mean to hit the app three times?”
“I’m at Brooklyn’s surf tournament in New York. He’s here,” I whisper.
I look at Vincent. It’s hard to believe such a nice looking man could be so messed up. I can see why they let him go. Apparently he’s taken an interest in surfing. At least that’s what he’d tell anyone who asked.
He puts his sunglasses back on, but then he frowns and reaches in his pocket. He takes a call, walks over, and leans against the town car, talking on his phone.
“Oh my God,” I whisper breathlessly. “Please, please, go away.”
“Should I get out and tell him to get the hell off my car?” the driver says.
“No. Don’t move. Don’t even speak.”
We sit in silence while Vincent leans against the car. He’s having an animated conversation. I can’t really hear what he’s saying, but he sounds pissed.
Vincent is just arriving at the surf tournament when he gets a call from one of the thugs who is supposed to be watching the surfer’s tent. He’s hoping for good news.
“Did you find her? I just got here.”
“Sorry, boss, but I’m not there,” the thug replies. “My car broke down and had to be towed, but I’ve got a guy on his way.”
Vincent slams his fist into the side of the car he’s leaning on. He’s so pissed off.
He slams his fist into the side of the window and I jump about four feet into the air.
“That’s it,” the driver says. He opens the car door and says to Vincent, “What the fuck are you doing hitting my car?”
I dive further down into the floorboards as Garrett yells at me, “What the hell are you doing there?”
Why did he have to do that?
And he’s left his door open.
Vincent slams his phone into his pocket. “I’m sorry, sir. Just got a call with some bad news.” He turns and looks at the window. Literally straight at me. “It doesn’t appear I did any damage.” Then he reaches in his pocket, pulls out a wad of cash, and peels off a twenty. A picture drops out of the wad.
The driver bends down to pick it up.
Vincent says, “You been here long?”
“Only about an hour.”
“You happen to see this girl?” He holds my photo in front of the driver’s face.
I thought my heart stopped before.
I may literally be going into cardiac arrest.
Please, God. Please don’t let him be swayed by a wad of cash. Please let him say no. Please. Please.
Garrett yells in my ear again, “Keatyn, goddammit, answer me.”
I hear the driver say, “I’ve seen a lot of pretty girls. Can’t say I’ve seen that one, though.”
“Thanks, anyway,” Vincent says. “Sorry about the car.” And he walks away.
The driver gets back in the car.
“I can’t believe you did that after I told you to stay in the car!”
“Nobody is going to hit my car and get away with it. He had a picture of you.”
“I was afraid when you saw that wad of money, you might tell him I was in here.”
“No way, Miss. I saw his eyes. He has cold eyes.”
“Yes, he does.”
“You ready to get out of here, I take it?”
“Yes. Please.” Then I say into my phone, “I’m fine, Garrett. We’re leaving. I’ll call you back in a few minutes.”
After he drives for about ten minutes, with me staring out the back window trying to make sure we’re not followed, I have him pull into a convenience store parking lot.
“I need to make a phone call,” I tell him, then step outside of the car.
I call Garrett back. Tell him what just happened. He puts me on hold to call B’s security team.
I pace the length of the car.
His voice booms in my ear. “What the hell were you thinking going there? All the work we did to get you somewhere safe and you go see Brooklyn at a publicized event?”
“I thought it would be okay. I never thought he would fly all the way to New York.”
“Do you believe me now? Do you fucking believe that you can never let your guard down again? Do you now believe me when I said your life as you knew it is over?”
I start bawling and lean against the window Vincent punched. “Yes, I believe you. I’m sorry.”
“None of this will work if you don’t make it work.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“No. No sorries. I want you to think about what could have happened to you there. I want you to think about what Vincent wants to do to you. Are those pleasant thoughts?”
I sob. “No.”
“Good. Remember them next time you think about doing something stupid like this. Let’s get you back to school.”
“I’m going to the Hamptons. Some friends from school have a house there. I’ll be safe. It’s my new life. I swear, Garrett, I’m trying. I really am.”
Garrett calms down. I hear him take a deep breath.
“Please don’t tell my mom or James or Tommy. Promise me?”
“I’m putting you on hold. Don’t hang up.”
I wait on hold for a few minutes. A text from the spa pops up with an address.
Garrett clicks back on. “I want you to get the driver to take you to the address that was just sent to you. Do not, under any circumstances, tell him where you are going next. Do you understand?”
“I understand. What is at the address?”
“A helicopter. I’m getting you the fuck to the Hamptons and fast.”
I let out a huge sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
“As for telling your family, I will keep quiet if you promise to never do something so stupid again.”
“I got it.”
His voice softens. “Are you okay?”
“No. Yes. I don’t know.” I start to cry again and stutter out, “I went . . . to . . . to . . . see Brooklyn . . . and he . . . hooked up with a girl . . . in a cabana . . . while I was there.”
“Damn. That’s not cool.”
“I know. You’ll make sure he’s safe though, right? As much as I’d like to kill him right now, I don’t really want anyone else to hurt him.”
“They said he’s out surfing. He’s fine. Right now I want you to tell your driver to take you to the address. Remember not to tell him where you are going. Okay?”
Vincent has no idea just how close he was to Keatyn. After a full day in the sun at the tournament with no sign of her, he gives up, and goes to the Hamptons.
Where she also happens to be.
Neither Keatyn nor Vincent knew the other was there. Can you imagine what would have happened if they ran into each other on the beach there?
Weeks later, she shows up online. Could it really be her? Could he somehow trace her through the Internet? He should have thought of that sooner.
He watches the video of her again, allowing it to arouse him. Allowing him to dream again of them together. He can’t give up. He must find his beloved Lacy and take her away from those trying to keep them apart. He’s also mad at Keatyn.
I walk quietly out into the hall and then into the concrete stairwell.
“What’s wrong?” I say when I answer Garrett’s call.
“Some things have been going on that I need to update you on. On your Facebook wall, people have been speculating about where you are.”
“You should just delete my profile.”
“We’re monitoring it. And some interesting things have come up. Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about rehab facilities. A little over two weeks ago, one was mentioned by name. A famous one in Malibu.”
“A day later, their office was broke into. Files were searched.”
“I’ve heard that’s not uncommon. Paparazzi trying to get a story.”
“I agree. But then, nine days ago, another one was named. The one we sent the plane to in Utah.”
“Did it get broken into too?”
“Yes. And, a few days ago, another one in Arizona.”
“Have you been following him?”
“Yes, but he hasn’t left. He probably hired someone to do it.”
“Okay, so he’s still looking for me. Got it. I won’t do anything stupid.”
“There’s something else.”
I instantly panic. “Mom? The girls?”
“No. They’re all fine. It’s your friend, Cush.”
“What about him?”
“He, well, he left. He’s not at your school anymore.”
“Where is he?”
“There’s a message from him on your Facebook. On your iPad is a special icon that looks like the one on your phone only it’s orange. Hit that. Then log into Facebook. It’s a program that doesn’t allow your IP address to be tracked. Read the message. I’ll wait.”
I log on and take a deep breath. I have numerous messages and notifications, but I look for the one from Cush.
And open it.
I came to your party because I had to apologize to you. Tell you I was sorry about what I said after the whole Mandy thing. That it wasn’t your fault.
I had something else to tell you too. It’s the real reason I came back. After all the plans we’d made, I felt like I owed it to you to tell you in person.
Here’s what I was supposed to tell you:
I decided to live with my dad and go to school in Oregon. I thought it would suck here, but it really doesn’t. I like coming home and having people in the house. Everyone here is really nice and I kinda met this girl. She’s sweet. You’d like her. She doesn’t care about being popular. It’s not that big of a deal here.
But here’s what happened:
I gave you the boots.
You loved them.
I wasn’t lying when I said they look like you, but I was lying when I said I bought them. I’m sorry, but my mom picked them out. She said they were a good brand and you would love them.
Then you kissed me, and I wanted to forget about Oregon.
I wanted to come back and pretend there was no one else.
I loved dancing with you again.
And then you dragged me off the dance floor and really kissed me. Told me you broke up with the surfer and that you loved me. I swear, Keatyn, you can wrap me around your finger like no one else can. I started making plans with you that I knew I couldn’t keep. I told you about prom because I wished it could be true.
But then I started feeling guilty.
Because I knew I was lying.
I told myself I would tell you the truth at your after party.
But then you cancelled the party and left.
I tried to call you. I tried to go to your house. I felt like I owed it to you to tell you in person, but I had to go.
I hope I can see you again someday.
And that you’re okay. You were the first girl I ever really cared about.
I just had to do what’s best for me. Go where it’s good for me.
I hope you’re somewhere good for you too.
Tears stream down my face, but I laugh at myself through them. At my own stupidity. I told a guy I loved him over a pair of boots. A pair of boots that I was convinced symbolized everything we could be. I’m such an idiot.
“I read it,” I tell Garrett. Trying not to sound like I’ve been crying.
“Are you okay? I remember you told me about how he loved all of you because of the boots.”
“Yeah, the boots his mommy bought. I feel so stupid, Garrett.”
“Don’t. When the right guy comes along, you’ll know it.”
An instant message pops up. It’s Cush.
“Garrett? Are you on with me? Did you see Cush just messaged me. Can I talk to him?”
“Yes, I’m on with you. Be careful what you say.”
Me: Cush, yes. It’s me. I was just sitting here reading your message. And crying.
Cush: I’m sorry.
Me: I know. I’m glad you’re happy at your dad’s.
Up pops another instant message.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
“Garrett! Did you see that? Is that him? Is it Vincent?”
“I’ll try and track it.”
Cush: Where are you?
Me: I’m not supposed to tell.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Me: I can’t tell . . . fuck it. You know how I told you there was family drama?
Cush: Yeah . . .
Me: You have to swear to me. Swear to me that you won’t tell a soul this. If anyone asks, you haven’t talked to me. Okay? You have to swear.
Cush: I pinky swear, Keatyn.
Garrett yells in my ear. “Keatyn, do not tell him! There’s more I need to tell you. It’s why I let you read his message. When Cush moved to Oregon, Vincent took a trip up there too. He visited Cush’s school. Told the faculty that he was moving there with his daughter. Asked if they had any other new female students. He even went to Cush’s house and knocked on his door. He looked liked he was asking for directions or pretending he had the wrong house or something. They spoke. Vincent went to one of his soccer games. Then he came back home. Cush is safe and he’s moved on, Keatyn. Let him stay that way.”
Cush: You still there?
Tears continue to stream down my face and start dripping all over my iPad. How many lies am I going to have to tell? How could I have ever dreamed of going somewhere where no one knew me? I thought it would be so cool. A false name. A secret identity. So cool and mysterious.
I was so wrong.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Cush: So what happened?
Me: You know how your parents freaked about Mandy drugging you?
Cush: Yeah. They kinda blame you.
Me: They weren’t going to let you come back, were they? Even if you would’ve wanted to.
Cush: No. They weren’t.
Me: I’m in a kind of similar situation. I’m somewhere that’s supposed to be good for me too.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Cush: Are you happy?
Me: I’m trying to be. It’s hard. So the girl you met there this summer. Are you with her?
Cush: Yeah. We’ve been going out since I came back. I’m sorry.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Conman1: Come out, come out, wherever you are.
Me: I have to go.
Cush: I’m glad I got to talk to you. I’m sorry.
Me: I know. Bye, Cush.
When she doesn’t reply, Vincent worries he might be scaring her. That’s the last thing he wants. She needs to tell him where she is so he can come rescue her. So he takes a different approach.
Conman1: It was all just a misunderstanding. I really was trying to help. And even after everything, I still want to make a movie with you. Come home.
I’m trying hard to ignore the messages. I know that Garrett is watching what I say. But I can’t take it anymore. He ruined my life.
Me: So I’m curious. You were taking me to a van, going to drug me, kidnap me, then what?
She replied! But then he worries that he’s not really talking to her. That it’s someone else. That they are trying to trick him.
Conman1: I don’t know what you’re talking about. I thought you were in danger. Was just trying to help out a friend.
Me: Heard you’ve been checking out rehabs. You should seriously check yourself in. Get some help. You’ll only find me if I want to be found. Oh, and I’ve been fucking my way across Europe. Maybe you should come and get me.
I log off then throw my iPad across the stairwell and cry some more.
I cry and cry until I have no more tears.
I finally pull myself together and reach down to pick up my iPad. The front of it is shattered to pieces.
Kind of like my life.
My phone is still in my hand and I realize Garrett not only knows what I typed to Vincent, he also heard my meltdown.
“Are you still there?” I whisper into my phone.
“I am. I’ll send you a new iPad.”
“I don’t want to know anymore. Unless it has to do with my family. I don’t want to know. You were right, weren’t you? I’m never going to be able to go back home.”
“I’ve studied a lot of stalking cases, Keatyn. They don’t usually end well for the person being stalked. It doesn’t help that stalking is extremely hard to prove. Until they commit an actual crime, there is usually nothing that can be done. It’s even hard to get a restraining order, as you well know. It was really brilliant of Vincent to become friends with you. It makes all his stories for why he was around you seem plausible. You invited him to your party. He was trying to help you in the scuffle. You’d been drinking. You misunderstood what he said.”
“It was embarrassing when the police breathalyzed me. When they took my statement, I was hysterical. And I threw up twice.”
“I know. It also didn’t help that you were well over the legal limit and he was stone-cold sober. Even though James was on your side, he didn’t know you invited him to the party. But I did. My people were in charge of the guest list. That’s why I didn’t push too hard. I figured they would let him go, but I was quite shocked to hear the extent of your relationship.”
“I thought I had the world all figured out. I was going to become an actress and make a movie with Vincent. I was going to love Cush. How could I have been so wrong? I always thought I was good at reading people. Now I’m almost afraid to be friends with anyone.”
“Have you made friends there?”
“I think so, but I don’t really trust my judgment anymore. And, right now, I just feel very alone.”
“Let’s talk about something positive then.”
“Is there anything positive?”
“Yes. I finished the security on your loft. And I have to say, good job. It’s an amazing place. It’s warm and comfortable, yet gracious and grand. It’s just like you. I know you told me you were having a hard time figuring out who you are, but you need to stop thinking you have to be one way or another. You can be all of the things you are at the same time. Picture yourself as a gemstone. You have lots of facets. Someday, you’ll find a man who loves every one of those facets and, by then, some boy named Cush will only be a fond memory.”
“Thanks, Garrett. And I changed my mind. I do want to know. I need to know. Even if it sucks. So, those messages he was sending me. Were you able to track them?”
“No. He’s got something like we do that makes it difficult to trace. If we’d had more time, maybe, but I looked over what he said. There was nothing incriminating. He didn’t bite when you brought up the van.”
“Do you think I really pissed him of with what I said at the end?”
“I sure hope not.”
Vincent reads her message again.
Heard you’ve been checking out rehabs. You should seriously check yourself in. Get some help. You’ll only find me if I want to be found. Oh, and I’ve been fucking my way across Europe. Maybe you should come and get me.
He throws his iPad across the room, fuming.
He notices tears rolling down his cheeks.
He brushes them away in frustration then goes to pick up the iPad, his only source of contact with her.
He discovers the front of it is shattered to pieces.
Like his life is without her.
A few days later, he replaces the iPad and discovers that the surfer added a new photo of Keatyn. She’s on the beach in front of the shrimp shack named Buddy’s. He knows the place well, as he took some photos of her and the surfer eating lunch there the day of her birthday party. He checks the photo he took that day. She’s wearing the same bikini top and cutoff shorts. Her hair is braided the same. She’s got on the same sunglasses.
The only difference is that in this photo, she has the shorts unzipped and one side slid down exposing her hip. What he couldn’t see from his vantage point that day is staring him in the face now—a fresh tattoo.
He blows the photo up to discover a pair of Chinese symbols.
After meticulously going through the surfer’s photos on his new fan page, he discovers that the boy has a matching tattoo on his wrist. They are tied together. Matt and Lacy.
And he needs to be tied together with them.
In the script.
And in life.
He studies all the photos the surfer has of his friends and memorizes their faces. The next morning, he gets up early, checks to see where the best waves are in the area, loads up his board, and heads there. He quickly spots the one named Mark and when they are done surfing he talks to him, mentioning he knows Brooklyn and Keatyn.
Mark smiles and animatedly tells him how Brooklyn is off living his dream, surfing with the pros. How his dad got him some sponsors and he committed to giving it a shot this year. How Matt knows he’s going to do awesome, dude.
“I was wondering about his tattoo. Do you know where he got it? I’ve been thinking about getting one but don’t want to go just anywhere.”
“Oh, dude, you need to see Tiny. He’ll do you up good. Man is a true artist.” He flashes his own tattoos as do some of the other guys. All done by Tiny.
“Thanks, I’ll look him up. By the way, what does his tattoo mean?”
“Chaos, man. Like life is divine chaos.”
Vincent waves goodbye, loads up his board, then sits in his car and thinks.
He grabs his phone, finds the tattoo artist, and goes straight to his shop.
He only has one tattoo. His body is his temple, and he takes extremely good care of it. He’s never understood how people could mar their skin up with numerous tattoos and piercings.
But as he walks in Tiny’s shop, he understands the need—the conviction—one must possess to commit. And he is fully committed.
He discovered that Tiny is not at all small, as his nickname would suggest. Vincent wants him and only him to do the tattoo, and he waits for two hours while the man finishes up a portion of large tiger covering a man’s shoulder. The shop is clean, at least. And he understands what Mark meant by the man being an artist. The walls of the shop are covered with amazing designs, some small and simple, others grand and colorful.
“Well, what are you thinking?” Tiny asks him.
Vincent shows the man the photo of Keatyn, although he has it zoomed into the tattoo.
“I did this,” Tiny says.
“Yes. I was referred.”
“Why do you want the same thing?” he asks curiously as he takes the phone from Vincent and makes the photo smaller, seeing Keatyn at the beach.
“We’re friends,” Vincent replies. “It just so happens that I’ve always wanted a chaos tattoo myself. She suggested I come see you.”
“She needed a little medicinal weed to get through it. How about you?”
Vincent considers it, but he wants to feel every single prick of the needle. He wants to bleed for his beloved Lacy. “No, I’ll take the pain.”
During the tattooing, Tiny asks a lot of questions about how he knows Keatyn and Brooklyn. He feels like he’s being interrogated and it puts him on edge. When he realizes the man is just trying to make conversation, he politely asks the man to stop talking. He wants to focus on the pain and the way it arouses him.
He also realizes that he needs to do something about Matt.
He can’t kill him yet. Not until he has Lacy.
But he needs someone to get close to him. Someone who could follow him on the surf tour.
He comes up with a simple but elaborate plan.
The next day, he calls his friend. “Hey, Bobby,” he says. “I’m looking for a girl.”
“Aren’t we all?” Bobby quips. “Whatcha need?”
He gives him the specifics, and Bobby sends over all the test shoots of the unknowns who are looking to play Tommy Steven’s daughter. He finds one who looks similar to Keatyn—a leggy blonde with a pretty smile. Nothing like Keatyn’s but close enough for what he needs. He calls an acquaintance who does press for one of the surf apparel manufacturers and mentions the girl. He knows they have a staff that travels to all the big tournaments to model and sell their wares.
A few days later, the girl is offered a job.
A few days after that, Vincent calls her. He tells the girl that he’d like her to become friendly with a young surfer named Brooklyn Wright. That he works for the company who hired her and that they are considering endorsements, but need to know what kind of guy he is off camera—like what’s going on in his personal life. Are there any skeletons in his closet?
At first, she isn’t sure about this arrangement, but he assures her this is common practice in determining which surfers they should sponsor. He also lets her know that he needs her to commit to doing this through the end of the tour. She mentions it’s a long commitment and that she has had some good auditions and really wants to act. That’s when he tells her how much he will be paying her to frolic at exotic beach locations.
Immediately, she agrees.
What she said to him when they spoke still haunts him. Heard you’ve been checking out rehabs. You should seriously check yourself in. Get some help. You’ll only find me if I want to be found. Oh, and I’ve been fucking my way across Europe. Maybe you should come and get me.
Through his contacts, he is introduced to a man who specializes in finding people. Usually, because they have ratted out the boss in some way and go into hiding. When Vincent is at his wit’s end, this man is offered to him. He checks Keatyn’s passport and discovers she hasn’t left the country, but he takes it a step further, scanning her photo into a facial recognition software that will allow him to discover if she left the country under a false passport.
The man assures him that she hasn’t, but that if she does, he will find her.
What about social media? Could she have started a new one? Could he find her that way?
The man confirms that he could and sets up a program that constantly searches for her new profile.
But just in case he’s wrong, he sends a man to keep watch on her friend, Damian, who is touring with his band.
One thing the man was useful for was mentioning that when people go into hiding, they typically go somewhere they know. A relative or friend’s home. Vincent searches real estate records and the tabloids. He knows Tommy and the whore own properties in Malibu, New York City, and France. But the man also offers up more suggestions. Could she be with her paternal grandparents in Texas? What about Tommy’s mother, who lives in southern California?
Vincent has all these places checked.
But she is at none of them.
They even have a man pose as a utility repairman, something about a possible gas leak, who gets into Tommy’s New York apartment and reports back that no one is currently living there.
Another dead end.
Which makes him furious—mostly with Abby.
It’s all her fault.
All of this, is all her fault.
And he’s going to make her pay.
He sends her a note and lets her know just that. That she can hide her daughter, but that he knows exactly where Tommy and her girls are.
And he’s going to keep letting her know his plans until he gets his Lacy back.
Time passes. Every week he goes to the club. He’s hired private investigators, thugs, and has everyone from surfers to airport personnel on his payroll. But no one can find her. No one has heard from her.
One night in late September, Vanessa and her friend are at the club. As is typical, RiAnne dances and Vanessa saunters into his section—and she’s in a funk.
She tells him about Juan Fabio Martinez. How wealthy his family is and how she’s supposed to go out on their yacht for a long weekend at sea. She also admits to missing Keatyn.
“For the last two years, we’ve gone to the yacht party together and had so much fun. It’s going to be weird not having her with me,” she says.
“Maybe she’ll show up on her own,” Vincent suggests, trying to make her feel better.
Vanessa smiles. “I don’t know if she has her phone still, but both Bam and me texted her to remind her of the party. It’d be like Keatyn to randomly show up. Of course, I would have to be mad at her if she did.”
“Understandable,” Vincent agrees.
“Oh, and don’t mention the party in front of RiAnne. I don’t want her to know the party is this weekend—she’ll expect an invite. And even though I am furious with her, there’s a part of me that hopes Keatyn will show up.”
A few bottles of champagne later, and Vincent has secured an invite of his own.
And much like Vanessa, he is hoping Keatyn will show up to the yacht party.
“What’s wrong?” Keatyn says.
“Did you tell Vanessa where you are?” Garrett asks.
“Keatyn, it’s important that you tell me the truth. I won’t yell at you if you did. I know this has been hard on you, but if you did, it’s imperative that I know.”
“I swear to you on my sisters’ lives that I’m telling you the truth. What’s going on?”
“Vanessa may be missing.”
“She apparently posted something on Facebook about how she talked to you. That you wanted everyone to know you were getting better.”
“She just wants to act like she knows what’s going on.”
“Well, that may be, but she went to a club last night and RiAnne says no one has seen her since.” He swallows loudly. “Vincent was at the same club.”
“And you think something’s happened to her? But you told me if I kept my friends in the dark they’d be safe. Did you lie to me? Do you think he’s done something to her?”
“We don’t know. We aren’t running surveillance on him twenty-four-seven anymore.”
I’m shocked. “Why not?!”
“I was told to cut back.”
“Is it a money thing?”
“I think they were pretty surprised at how much the bill was, yes. But in their defense, it’s been almost a month and we haven’t produced any compelling results. The goal was to gather information that we could use against him. Other than him being at the same places as some of your friends, his going to Oregon, New York, and a few coincidental Facebook things, we have nothing. Nothing we could take to a judge, anyway.”
“Do you think for my safety we should be watching him more?”
“I don’t know that twenty-four-seven is the answer, but, yes, I’d like to have the freedom to do what we think is best. For example, my man followed him to the club, but then went off duty.”
“From now on, you have the freedom to do what you think is best. Just bill me. And you need to give me more details about Vanessa because what you’re saying doesn’t make sense. Vanessa never went to a club alone. She made RiAnne and me go with her. And she may not have told RiAnne who she was leaving with, but she would have told her she was leaving. RiAnne was always her cover.”
“What do you mean, her cover?”
“It’s just not that unusual for her to go off with a guy for the weekend. And when she did that, she always told her dad that she was staying at RiAnnes. What did RiAnne say, exactly?”
“On her own wall, she said that Vanessa is missing, but on your Facebook wall she said, Vanessa is off radar and I’m going to be pissed if you two are having a reunion without me.
“Off radar means RiAnne has no idea where she is. You need to send her a message. Don’t write on her wall. Send her a direct message. Tell her that Vanessa is not with me. That I haven’t spoken to her or anyone else since my party. Tell her—and this is important—that I pinkie swear. She’ll come home, Garrett. She always does. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that he was there.”
“Like it was just a coincidence that he was in New York at Brooklyn’s tournament? I don’t think so. When she comes home, Keatyn, I’d like her to come home alive. We can’t find Vincent either.”
“What do you mean?”
“We can’t find him. He’s not at home. Didn’t go to his office today. His assistant said she wasn’t sure when he’d be back.”
“Wow,” is all I manage to mutter out. My mind is going in a million directions. Trying to process it all.
“When she went off with guys before, did she go to the same place? Is there somewhere we can look for her?”
“Not really. She’d take off and come back with some amazing story. And pictures. Always pictures. Do you really think she could be with Vincent?”
“I don’t believe in coincidences.”
I remember her telling me that Vincent was hot that day at the hotel. “You might check The Chateau. It’s her favorite hotel and it’s where she met Vincent to begin with.”
“I’ll call you if I hear anything. You swear to me, she doesn’t know where you are? If she does, I want you out of there now. I’m serious.”
I hit the end button on my phone with a shaking hand. I know at any moment I’m going to burst into tears. I can’t go to class.
I run my hand through my hair, look up, and see the chapel at the top of the hill. I put my head down and quickly walk toward it.
Later that night . . .
I screw up every single dance number I do. I can’t concentrate. Can’t keep one train of thought.
I want to check my phone, but our dance advisor makes us leave them in our lockers during the game. I’m the first one into the locker room at halftime. We have exactly eight minutes before we have to be on the field to perform with the band.
There is one message from Garrett.
Garrett: We’ve tapped into Vincent’s phone records. (Don’t ask.) He only made one call last night to his office number. We assume that’s when he told them he wouldn’t be in. Haven’t seen or heard from him or Vanessa. RiAnne responded to your Facebook message. She asked a bunch of questions about you, but said she is really worried about Vanessa. She said she even tried to reach Vanessa’s dad, but that he is not answering his phone. She says she is “freaking out worried.” We are in the process of running their credit cards. We’re proceeding as if it’s a kidnapping at this point. It’s been nearly 24 hours.
My throat drops into my stomach.
Me: If she’s not found by tomorrow morning, I’m getting on a plane and coming home.
Garrett: You will do nothing. Understand me. Nothing. Please do not compound this situation for me.
Me: I can’t sit here in hiding while my friend is wherever with him. I can’t.
Garrett: I am sending someone to sit outside your school. If you attempt to leave, you will be detained. Do you understand me?
And after the game . . .
The dorm is quiet. Most everyone has left for the weekend. Katie and Maggie must have already left for Annie’s. Her parents are out of town and they are spending the weekend there. I wasn’t invited to go with them, but they all thought I was going with Dawson.
I wash my face, put on some pjs, and fall into bed.
I am just on the edge of sleep when my phone rings.
I instantly shoot up in bed, panic griping me when I see Garrett’s name.
“Did you find her? Please tell me she’s okay.”
“She posted a picture on Facebook. We can run it through our facial recognition software, but I thought you might know faster. I just sent you the photo.”
Up pops a photo of Vanessa wrapped in a pair of deeply tanned arms.
“Ohmigawd!” I squeal with delight. “She’s with Bam Bam! That’s why her dad isn’t reachable either. She’s with her dad on Bam’s yacht.”
“Want to tell me who Bam Bam is?”
“Sure. His name is Juan Fabio Martinez. He’s an Argentinian polo player. He’s really talented, went pro at fifteen, and he’s only a year older than me and Vanessa. His dad owns, well, like, South America, I think. He’s awesome. He’s looks like a Polo Ken doll and even comes with his own set of toys.”
“His own set of toys?”
“Yeah. Yachts, boats, suitcases full of cash, a helicopter, a ranch, horses, and Ferraris. Always a Ferrari. And always red. Last count he had eight. All different years and models. Every year around this time, he has a party on the yacht. His dad does some business with Vanessa’s dad, and she and I have gone the last two years. I forgot about that. If you would have let me keep my phone, I could have saved us both a lot of worry. I’m sure he texted me.”
“So she’s safe and not with Vincent?”
“I’m positive. She’s safe and not with Vincent.”
“Look at the photo carefully. Are you sure it’s new, not from last year?”
“I’m positive. Vanessa is in a bikini I have never seen. She has new caramel colored highlights, and Bam has a new tattoo. See the Ferrari prancing pony on his shoulder. That’s new.”
Garrett lets out a big breath. “Good. I’m still worried that we don’t know where Vincent is. Will you be at school all weekend?”
“No, I’m going to my loft in the morning.”
He lets out another big breath. “Even better.”
I get off the phone and say a prayer. Thanking God that Vanessa is okay.
Vincent has an enjoyable weekend on the yacht to an extent—she never shows up.
While he is out on the ocean with Vanessa, he recalls seeing her at the pool when she got back from Europe.
“Like I said. I wanted to celebrate. I also have big news for you.”
“The script is done.”
“Really? That’s awesome! When do I get to read it? Can you, like, messenger it to my house? Have you started auditions yet?”
“Not yet. I want to get you locked in first.”
And he has a revelation. Keatyn isn’t some girl fresh off the farm that can be convinced of anything. Growing up in the business means she’s probably heard horror stories about the casting couch. The fact that he didn’t send her the script once it was done, didn’t go through an agent, and kept trying to get her to go somewhere with him probably made her nervous. He has to legitimize the remake. He has to keep going forward with the project. He needs to create hype for the remake within the industry. Get the buzz going. He knows she wants this role. Maybe she will come back to him on her own accord.
As we’re walking toward the student center for lunch, Jake and Bryce tell me they have to go do something for football real quick, but that Dawson wants me to wait at the table for him. That they’ll be there shortly.
“Um, no thanks. I don’t have a death wish.”
“Just sit there, Monroe, and don’t let her give you any shit.”
I sigh big. “Fine.”
I’m actually kind of excited to see Whitney. I hope she looks me up and down and gives me a dirty look. It will mean that I look good. Today is the first day that I haven’t worn one of Kym’s looks. I’m wearing a look I put together myself. As you would expect, it started with a new pair of shoes: deep red suede Louboutin T-strap platforms with leopard heels. I paired them with the plaid skort, a cream-colored Dolce & Gabbana ruffled-front silk blouse, red silk headband, black cardigan, and a fun Juicy Couture charm bracelet.
As I’m confidently walking to the student center, I get a photo texted to me from Garrett.
I pull it up and see another photo of Vanessa with Bam. His arm is wrapped around her and she’s smiling coyly. She looks really happy. And I can’t help but hope that she is. I look a little closer and notice that she’s cropped them out of a group of people. I can see numerous body parts behind and around them.
Me: Another photo. Why?
Garrett: Look closely. At the arm on Vanessa’s right.
I enlarge the photo.
And feel like I’m going to throw up.
Not only is a scrolly Abby tattoo clear, but Vincent has a new one.
Up on his wrist.
A chaos tattoo just like mine.
Me: Holy shit! He got a tattoo just like mine?!
Garrett: What? I just saw Abby.
Me: The Chinese symbol on his wrist is in almost the exact location as Brooklyn’s. It makes me feel sick. Do you think the security B has is sufficient or have they cut back too?
Garrett: I think while he’s out of the country he is fine. I already suggested more undercover security for when he is back in the states. Promise me you won’t go see him.
Me: I promise. I’m sorry, but that’s just fucked up.
Garrett: My thoughts exactly.