Chapter Four: The Writing's on the Mirror
Her heart beat at an out of control pace as Sonny raced away from the person that was chasing her. Cardboard trees, abandoned backpacks, and an expensive water fountain all rushed by in a blur as Sonny ran past them. The familiar set morphed into a hallway as she made a sharp turn at the corner.
Risking having to see the killer running behind her, Sonny looked over her shoulder as she sprinted but the hallway was empty. And very dark every time the lights flickered off every few seconds.
The hallway disappeared behind her as she finally came to a sudden stop in front of a cardboard school building (another part of a set) and standing tied up, unable to move, and in front of the fake school were Chad and Dakota Condor.
She ran quickly over to them, to try and untie them, but a hand stopped her, pulling her back by the arm.
Oh no, Sonny thought, her pulse racing even more.
She attempted to struggle away from the firm grip, even going so far as to stomp on the killer's feet as hard as she could several times, until a knife came up to her throat as a threat. Her body went still as she resigned herself to defeat.
It's all over, she thought. But first…
"Who are you?" Sonny questioned tensely of the killer hidden behind her back.
The killer chuckled darkly. "You'll never know."
Sonny jolted awake from her nightmare with a start. No one noticed Sonny regaining consciousness as they were all too involved in their conversation to really pay attention.
Wow, Sonny thought, sitting up straighter on the couch. Freaky-scary nightmare.
"This is getting freaking crazy. Six people have been killed, and it's been, what? Three days? Four days? This killer is a freaking maniac with either a twisted mind or a purpose," Jake, an actor from The Scene stated seriously.
All of the remaining actors were holed up in Stage One's lounge guarded by the security while the police investigated Brian's murder. Several of the actors were only listening to the in-depth conversation about the situation at hand.
Sonny was curled up on a couch and sandwiched between Nico and Zora while Tawni was wrapped up in Sonny's borrowed Blarmie the Blanket with Arms and huddled next to Nico on the end of the couch. Portlyn was on one of the stuffed chairs next to their couch with her legs crisscrossed on the seat, Chad perched on the arm of Portlyn's chair.
"Well what the heck would the purpose be? What's the connection other than this studio?" Cameron asked, crossing her arms over her chest.
"Seriously. It couldn't be for revenge. Who would get so ticked at this many people from Condor Studios? Other than a psychopath?" Drew threw in.
"Which it's pretty darn clear from the murder count that we are dealing with a psychopath here," Portlyn said in a "duh" tone, looking at everyone around their loose circle.
"Okay," Jake agreed easily. "So let's say that is who we're dealing with. Someone who's a little off their rocker and is easily ticked. That still doesn't explain who this is. How could all of these people make this killer mad enough to murder? How could they all know this maniac?"
"Crazed fan gone too far?" Drew suggested.
"Possibly." Cameron pointed towards Drew and nodded in agreement.
"Desperate news reporter, maybe," Jake suggested. "Creating a story?"
"At least now we know there isn't any pattern," Sonny muttered.
"Pattern, there's a pattern?" Portlyn asked, her head perking up with Sonny's sudden comment. Once again, she'd been out of the loop. She whipped her head to her right past Chad to look at Sonny.
"No, there isn't anymore," Zora finally spoke up. "There used to be, but not anymore."
Tawni finally started easing her arms out of the Blarmie's sleeves and uncurling herself from her rigid position.
With all eyes on her and her group of friends, Sonny spoke again. "Age doesn't matter, gender doesn't matter, and past TV show we worked on doesn't matter either," Sonny stated grimly. "There isn't any specific order or anything."
Tawni dropped the Blarmie into her lap and stared at Sonny. "So, what this killer is killing just to kill? Wait, wait, so does that mean that even though I'm pretty, I could still be killed?" Tawni whispered out.
Zora and Sonny both nodded yes at Tawni.
Tawni grabbed the Blarmie the Blanket with Arms off her lap and threw it over her head, wrapping herself in it and hiding under it like it was a fuzzy, cloth cave.
"In that case, I should probably leave," Chad said egotistically, pointing to the door.
Sonny rolled her eyes. "Careful, Chad. One more narcissistic remark like that and your head may just explode from the size of your astronomical ego."
A few people "oohed" from Sonny's remark.
Chad's only response was to shake his head and narrow his eyes at Sonny.
"So there's no pattern, only one connection we know of to link them all together, and no clues or evidence," Jake said, getting the conversation back on track.
Chad continued glaring in what appeared to be Sonny's direction, but was really Nico's as Nico innocently rested his arm on the couch's back behind Sonny's head.
Jake continued on, looking at everyone in the room. "Put these all together and we have one messed up and scary situation."
Later that night, Sonny sat curled up on the tan recliner in the corner while Dan and Larry, who were ordered to stay with Sonny for the night, were on the edge of the couch watching a football game with great intensity. Sonny flipped open the most abused book she owned to the first page. The front cover on the book was torn at the corners and the binding on the poor book was shot. The most distinctive injury that stood out though was the long dent on the front cover where it had hit the corner of the wall after being thrown in an angry fit.
When she got to the dedication page she stopped aimlessly turning the pages and read it again. At the top was the author's dedication, thanking her sister, Emily, for helping her get the book published, and at the bottom was something that had been added in about three and a half years ago in black Sharpie.
"Hopefully after you read this my charming good looks and personality will still be appealing to you. Just don't expect me to act anything like the guy in here does. Happy 17th Birthday. –Chad"
Sonny pursed her lips and looked up at the ceiling. She wished she hadn't brought it with her, but she'd had no choice at the time. Sonny'd been looking at it while she was packing for this trip and when Lisa had walked in, she had to cover it up and after that she forgot it was in her suitcase. It was her birthday gift from Chad a few days before he suddenly started getting cryptic and touchy with everything she did, which eventually led to the split. Following that was the announcement that So Random, Mackenzie Falls, Hoosier Girl, and The Scene were getting taken off because most of their actors were too old. From there, Sonny decided to move back to Wisconsin with her mom, finish High School, and then go to college.
She turned to the Prologue and read through the words without them even registering in her brain. Finally, she gave up trying to be busy because now instead of obsessing over the killer out to kill all of her old friends and possibly herself, she was obsessing over the whole Chad fiasco three years ago. One step forward, two steps back. Closing her book with a soft thud, Sonny abandoned it on the coffee table and stood up.
"I'm going to go take a shower," Sonny told her bodyguards.
They nodded their acknowledgment to her without taking their eyes off the TV screen.
Sonny walked into the bathroom a few feet away from the living room. Flipping on the light switch, Sonny sighed and got ready to turn on the shower water when something that looked off registered in Sonny's peripheral sight. She whirled to her left towards the mirror and bit down hard on her tongue to keep from screaming because written all over the large mirror in drippy, purple letters were two words. "You're next."
Without daring to check behind the shower curtain for the killer, Sonny fled from the bathroom, and frantically told Dan and Larry about what she just saw.
While the two guards went to check in all of the hotel rooms, Sonny fumbled with her phone's buttons, trying to call her mom, or Zora, but accidentally pushed Tawni's name to dial.
Oh well, Sonny thought as she listened to the phone ringing. I'd have to tell Tawni anyway.
"Hello?" Tawni mumbled into the phone. Sonny could hear soothing piano music in the background.
"Tawni, I- I just found writing on my bathroom mirror. I'm n- next," Sonny stuttered out.
"What?" Tawni yelled.
There was a pause, and to Sonny, it sounded like Tawni was running.
"Tawni, what are you doing?" Sonny questioned when there was eerie silence on the other end of the phone.
The next sound that throbbed in Sonny's ear was Tawni's screaming.
Holding the phone farther away from her ear, Sonny waited until her scream died down to speak. "Tawni, Tawni, what is it? Did something happen?"
"I'm next, too," Tawni told her in a whisper while her own bodyguards searched the room.
No one else had been told beforehand when they were next to die. Why were Sonny and Tawni the exceptions? What was so different about them? Why would the killer want them to know?
Tawni and Sonny stood at the center of the cluster of stars for all of the group shots in the photo shoot. It was the very last day they would have to do anything for the Condor Channel's Weekend Premiere Special, and everyone was on edge. Even the photographer, who had somehow not been informed of all the murder drama centered on Condor Studios and its stars until he arrived with his camera and equipment, was nervous as he took his position behind the camera. When they were all standing still and lined up, Sonny and Tawni were still in the center with Nico and Zora on Tawni's other side and Chad and Portlyn on Sonny's other side.
The photo shoot started with a lot of usual people missing from the equation. For instance, the photographer's assistants had been informed of the murder epidemic and had conveniently gotten too sick to go. There was also Marshall, who was supposed to be there but had gotten stuck in a traffic jam and no one knew when he'd be there. The only people in the room (on Stage One) were the bodyguards, the stars, and the photographer.
After taking several pictures of everyone giving only their serious faces, the photographer decided to try and coax everyone into smiling for the camera. If he had to, he'd pull out his stuffed animals and squeaky toys that he sometimes used on the little kids and toddlers. "Alright everyone, smile, now," he said in a fake cheerful voice. It wasn't that he was unhappy with his current photo subjects. He just found it hard to be happy in a place with more chalk drawings on the floor than the elementary playground.
The actors all tried their hardest to smile, most them coming out as grimaces or cheesy, closed-lip smiles.
The photographer wrinkled his eyebrows as he automatically took a couple of shots of that. "Alright, now give me your real, 100 watt smiles. Come on guys. Really blow the fuses with those bright smiles of yours." He forced a laugh out while they all tried harder to make their "bright" smiles believable to the happy-go-lucky Condor Channel viewers.
Sonny swallowed her fear and put on her toothiest grin while Chad casually leaned his elbow on Sonny's shoulder, the pictures of ease.
No sooner had the last person cracked a smile did the all of the lights abruptly shut off with a loud click.
Tawni was the first to set the pandemonium in motion as she clutched at the sides of her face, covered up her ears, and shrieked in fear into the darkness. Everyone, even the photographer, couldn't help but follow suit as they were all swallowed by the thick darkness. Sonny couldn't believe she'd never noticed how pitch blackness actually did feel almost solid, like a substance hanging in the air. With everyone's combined screams of terror, the density of the darkness kicked up a notch and Sonny started feeling strangled, grabbing onto the person to her left's arm.
Outside, it was a bright and sunny California day. Inside, however, what with there being no windows to allow any warm summer light onto Stage One gave the impression that it was the dead of a dark, dark night.
Tawni abruptly took her hands off her face and instead, threw them around Sonny, still forcing air out of her mouth in the form of a harsh sounding scream. Chad huddled more into the person on his right while he felt what was probably Portlyn's hand grabbing onto his.
"Okay, now everyone just- just stay calm," the photographer tried to instruct while he continued to cling to his camera like his life depended on it.
The sound of loud, frantic footsteps pounding on the floor in an uneven rhythm and a dragging noise made everyone freak out even more.
"Mother!" the photographer yelled, joining back in with the panicked frenzy. He made to duck down by the base of his camera's stand and accidentally hit his elbow down hard on the camera button twice, sending two brief flashes of bright light out from the camera to illuminate a small part of the room.
"I don't want to be next!" Tawni yelled into the darkness as she clung to Sonny like saran wrap.
Sonny gave the general direction she'd heard Tawni's voice come from a look. "We're both next!" she shouted over the chaos.
"You first!" Tawni screamed back, as someone accidentally rammed into her from the side and pushed Sonny, Chad, and Portlyn to the right along with her.
Cardboard Chad stood alone in the corner, a sitting target with his ultra whitened smile and happy double thumbs up.
And as quickly as they'd disappeared, all of the lights flicked back on and brightened the room comfortably again. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and for some, realized just who they'd latched on to for protection in the dark.
Sonny looked down and immediately dropped Chad's arm, taking a step back with Tawni's arms still constricting around her torso.
"That's it! That is it!" Cameron exclaimed, breaking the silence. "I cannot take any more of this! I am not working under these conditions! Even Mr. Condor isn't here for crying out loud! I'm leaving!"
Sonny was barely listening to her. Her paranoid search and headcount of everyone turned panicked as she whipped around with Tawni still shaking and very much attached to her at the hip. "Wait, wait, where're Nico and Zora?"
There was silence as everyone else looked around for the actors with their eyes but didn't find them anywhere in the room.
"They're gone," Portlyn was the first to state emotionlessly.
Sonny broke the silent pause in the room by saying "Okay, then, let's go" and causing everyone to jump and startle.
"Go where?" Drew asked, puzzled.
"Well, we have to try and find them," Sonny said bluntly and completely serious.
More chaos broke out as suddenly everyone in the room started talking at once at Sonny. Words like "are you crazy," "I'm not staying," and "where would we even look" spilled out of all of the actors' mouths.
Meanwhile, their photographer staggered up from the ground and started getting ready to pack up his equipment. Now there were kidnappings. He was so out of there. He paused in reaching out to snap his laptop closed. On the screen were a few of the recent pictures he'd taken with his camera, four were for the photo shoot, and two had been accidents.
"Stop!" Sonny shouted over everyone, and effectively silenced them all. "We can't just pick up and leave when two people were just taken away right under our noses."
"Good gravy," the photographer uttered, staring in shock at his laptop screen.
"What's wrong?" Sonny questioned him, trying to casually squirm away from Tawni's hold on her.
He pointed at his computer screen and everyone shuffled over to gather around and see. "It looks like I accidentally snapped a few pictures in the dark," the photographer said uneasily.
Sonny's eyes widened along with many others as they stared at the pictures.
The first shot the camera had captured showed Zora standing alone in the darkness, an empty space where Nico should have been standing. The second picture showed a black gloved hand covering up Zora's mouth and forcing her back by pulling on her arms.
"So… the killer has them," Portlyn stated, once again the first to find her voice.
"Well, there is absolutely no way I'm sticking around now!" Cameron declared, on her way to the door.
Several others hesitantly started following her lead.
Feeling a spark of outrage at the betrayal, Sonny ran after them, stopping them all at the door. "No, no, no, you guys. What are you doing? You- you can't just- you're not really just going to let this go are you? Two people were just kidnapped and you're leaving?!"
"Of course we're not going to just let this go," Maxine, from Mackenzie Falls, said in a small voice. "We call the police and tell them just as soon as we get out of this war zone."
"But they could be too late. Please stay. You have to- No please don't!" Sonny protested as people started filtering out the door past her.
"Sorry, Sonny," Drew apologized on the way out the door. "But this is way out of our league. The police can handle this."
"Uh, clearly they can't since they don't even have any leads!"
Sonny racked her brains, jumping up and down when her idea came to her. "But how do you know you'll be safe if you leave now? What if the killer comes after you all? Don't forget! There's safety in numbers! So we should stick together! All of our shows and the bodyguards!" she exclaimed desperately, pointing back into the room where the photo shoot setup was. The camera and its equipment however, were quickly being packed up.
Chad stood, watching Sonny trying to convince everyone to stay and help, in the middle of the room with Portlyn and Tawni still there also. Portlyn was listening as well, while Tawni just looked a little shell-shocked at everything that had been happening.
The six bodyguards that had been hired and were still sticking out hanging around Condor Studios held their ground in their various posts around the room.
Alexis paused and a few people walking right behind her rammed into her back at the sudden stop. "She's right," Alexis concluded.
Sonny smiled, relieved.
Alexis reached into her purse, pulled out a large wad of money held together by an old, silver money clip and held it up for the guards to see. "The bodyguards come with us."
Sonny gaped at Alexis, unable to believe that this could really be happening. Her friends had been kidnapped, and now the only six people left who could possibly help at all in this situation were being bribed away with money. "What?" Sonny sputtered out.
"But we were hired to protect them," Larry responded, pointing towards Sonny and Tawni.
"Every bodyguard that comes with me gets a thousand dollars each, per day," Alexis stated clearly, holding up her large sum of money and walking out the door. She already knew that all six of the bodyguards would leave their posts immediately and follow after her. Being offered a lesser chance of getting killed and more money was an offer they apparently couldn't refuse.
"No!" Tawni cried out as she watched her only protection shuffle after Alexis and everyone else. "I'm too young and pretty to die!"
Portlyn rolled her eyes at that remark.
Sonny looked helplessly now as the last person filed out the door and left the last few people willing to at least try and do something to help Zora and Nico. They were a small group, with possibly no hope of being able to help Nico and Zora at all.
"So… what now?"
Yep. Nico and Zora were kidnapped. And don't hate Alexis too much for stealing the bodyguards. She was just a prop to my plot. Halfway through writing this, I realized, uh duh, they're going to have bodyguards in the room so they won't be completely alone once everyone else leaves. Then I needed a way to get the bodyguards out of the room, thus, the spoiled, bribing Alexis moment happened.
As usual, thanks for reading. :-)
--UPDATE – April 29, 2010—
I'm sorry, but this story is now on permanent hiatus. If you're dying to know who the killer is or anything, PM me and I'd be happy to tell you.
There's a very slim chance I'll finish this when Halloween rolls around again. We'll see.
Again, sorry. Thank you for reading this far.