The Cadillac Diaries: Episode 73

When the limo arrived at the theater, the chauffeur pulled up to the front door and waited as Ruben Ross climbed out. Pasting a smile on his face, he worked his way through the crowd of people standing in line for a seat. After a wave to reporters and a few enthusiastic handshakes, he slipped inside.

“Leeches,” Ross sneered as he straightened his tie and brushed invisible lint off his suit.

Ushers too young to tie their own shoelaces guarded the backstage door just to his left.

“Move, kid!” Ross barked.

The young man, barely twenty years old, stood his ground, his badly cut hair falling in his face.

“And you are?” the usher asked.

“Not wasting my precious time on you,” Ross said shoving the boy out of the way.

As he opened the door and pulled it closed behind him, he grumbled,

“What kind of amateur would hire that as an usher?”

Quickly putting on his best smile, Ross made his way down the long hall leading to the dressing rooms and backstage.

Flirting with only the most attractive women, he made note of a few phone numbers then continued down the hall until he came to the door of Christopher Callahan, the star of the play. Callahan was the only person there he would waste his time on. He rapped on the door twice then opened it.

“I know Callahan will invite me in. Everybody wants me on their side, so why waste my valuable time waiting out here in the hall?” Ross told himself as he turned the knob and entered.

“Christopher, my boy,” he said with a wide smile and open arms.

“Howdy, Mr. Ross,” Callahan said seated in front of a mirror while a pretty girl applied makeup to help his features show up better under the stage lights. Callahan was a soft-spoken southern boy who had traveled all the way from Nacogdoches, Texas, to White Lake in hopes of being a star.

“Are you settling in nicely?” Ross asked.

“Trying to, Mr. Ross. But this town is so different from back home,” Callahan explained.

“I know you’re new to White Lake, Christopher, but I promise it’s a great place to live. When you’re famous, you can move you and your family to Coldwater just north of here. Coldwater is our version of the Hamptons. Or if you’d prefer French style and old world culture, there’s St. Adalene to the south.”

“Thank you, Mr. Ross, sir,” Callahan said, trying to keep his head still as the last of the makeup was applied. “I’ll just be happy to make it through tonight without throwing up.”

“You’ll do fine, kid,” Ross said, trying not to mimic Callahan’s Texas drawl.

“Thank you, sir,” Callahan replied.

“Okay, Chris. You’re ready to go,” the makeup girl said as she stepped back to admire her work.

“Thanks, Jenny,” Callahan said, slowly standing up.  “Guess I better be getting out there.”

“Knock ’em dead, Christopher,” Ross said patting Callahan on the back.

“Thank you, sir.”

Then turning to Jenny, Callahan shyly smiled and said,

“See you at the party?”

“Of course,” Jenny winked.

As soon as the door closed behind Callahan, Ross spun around and glared at Jenny.

“Listen to me, you trollop, that boy has far better things to do than slum it with some harlot whose only skill in life is dressing poorly and making other people look good.”

With a full measure of contempt, Ross’ words struck her like blows of his fist.

“If you so much as glance more than twice at Callahan again, I will see to it that you lose everything. And should he ever hear mention of this conversation, I’ll personally see to it that your mother, father, sister, brother and anyone else who even glanced at you twice is dragged so far down into the gutter that homeless will be considered a step up. And you? You I will destroy. By the time I’m done, you’ll be so obscure you’ll have to aspire to amateur porn.”

Shocked by his tirade, Jenny’s lip quivered as she fought back tears.

“Now get out of my sight!” Ross barked.

As she stumbled out of the dressing room, Ross took a deep breath to compose himself and let it out slowly.

Just then the door opened and an elderly man looked in.

“Ruben Ross?” the man asked.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Ross asked feigning respect.

“I’m Raymond Slats,” the old man said. “I’m a private investigator of sorts, and I would like to have a moment of your time.”

Ross’ demeanor quickly changed. He recognized the name. Slats was the catalyst behind the police suddenly turning their sites on King.

“I’ve heard of you, Slats. I know you’ve been poking Bradford King with a stick. Personally, I don’t care what you do to him, but leave me out of it or you’ll wish you’d never waked from that coma,” Ross threatened.

“My intentions are noble, I assure you, Mr. Ross. It’s just that I need a moment of your time. Someone is hunting down everyone who works or worked for Bradford King, and I’m hoping you will be able to help me stop the person responsible. I have reason to believe that you’re his next target.”

Ross moved in closer, hoping to intimidate Ray with his physique.

“I’m not interested in you and your little crusade. I don’t care who wins, and I don’t care who loses. I’m too far above anyone to waste my time looking back. King’s clown won’t touch me. He’s too smart for that. Now leave,” Ross sneered. “I have to get ready for my public.”

Ross turned to face the lights of the mirror.

“Please just listen,” Ray pleaded.

Ross had grown tired of this old man. He slid his hand into his jacket pocket where he kept a pistol just in case King was dumb enough to try anything. The pistol was gone.

“Here you go,” Ray said.

Ross slowly turned around and saw that his weapon rested in the palm of Ray’s extended hand.

“How did you get that?” he snapped, snatching the gun away.

“You really shouldn’t stand so close to people and not watch their hands,” Ray answered with a pleasant smile.

“Get out,” Ross growled, “or I’ll call the toddlers they have running security here and have you thrown out.”

Ray paused then turned and left.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

David Crandall flashed his badge then made his way down the hallway towards backstage. His sources had told him Ruben Ross would be Bonkers’ next target. Crandall knew Ross liked paying a visit to his star just before the curtain lifted, so he figured Ross would be in Christopher Callahan’s dressing room. Crandall checked his watch.

“Almost showtime. Ross will either be back here with Callahan or up in his balcony seat with the two armed guards he hires for every public performance,” Crandall told himself.

As he moved down the hall, he spotted Callahan’s dressing room. When he reached out to knock on the door, it opened and Raymond Slats stepped out.

“What are you doing here?” Crandall asked Ray, pausing before entering the dressing room.

Ross sat in front of a large lighted mirror, smoothing his hair and straightening his tie.

“David Crandall,” Ross said without turning. “Why has King’s lapdog come to pay me a visit?”

“It’s not like that. You’re in trouble, and I need your help to stop this Captain Bonkers,” Crandall explained.

“Not you too,” Ross grumbled. “I’m getting real tired of everybody warning me about the pretend clown. First King, then Slats, and now you. Grow up. There’s no clown, Crandall. It’s just your master killing off people. Now go back and tell King he’d better leave me alone.”

“But,” Crandall began to protest.

Ross jumped up out of the chair, whirled around, and slapped Crandall across the face.

“Leave NOW!” he ordered.

Stunned, Crandall stood still for a moment then turned around and left.

Out in the hallway he looked over at Ray and saw a look of concern.

But before Ray could say anything, Crandall crossed to him.

“I don’t know what you told him just now, but if you’ve ruined my chances to stop that maniac and save her, you’ll pay. I won’t forget this.”

With that, Crandall stormed away, leaving Ray surprised and confused.

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