Chapter 1 – California!

Marianne McClane closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat. The plane had just landed in L.A., and she felt her eagerness rising, despite her very relaxed state. It had been over six months since she has seen her mother and her little siblings, John Jr. and Lucy. When her parents separated, she had decided to stay with her father in New York to finish High School while her mother flew to L.A to pursue her career. Every time Marianne thought of her mother, her blood boiled. She saw her as a self-centered bitch who had valued her career over her family, which she had torn right in half to do so. Marianne was ready to graduate and be on her own, but not before she makes sure her parents get back together, and bring her mother to her senses.

"You don't like flying, do you?" she heard a man's voice speak. Marianne opened her dark brown eyes and looked around. Apparently, she had to sit behind her father during the whole flight instead of next to him, where the salesman sat.

"What gives you that idea?" her father retorted.

"You wanna know the secret to surviving air travel?" the salesman replied. Marianne rolled her eyes. So the guy's got a cure to sell, huh?

"After you get to where you're going," the salesman went on. "Take off your shoes and your socks and you walk around on the rug barefoot and make fists with your toes."

Marianne blinked. Is he serious? She felt like bursting into laughter, but kept quiet in anticipation of her father's reply.

"Fists with your toes?" he responded, a little amused. The salesman laughed nervously in reply.

"I know, I know, it sounds crazy," he said. "Trust me, I've been doing it for nine years. Yes, sir – better than a shower and a hot cup of coffee." He continued chuckling. Marianne felt her irritation rise. She quickly unbuckled herself, and rose to grab her bag out of the carry-on luggage compartment.

"Oookaaay," she heard her father murmur with annoyance as he unbuckled himself and reached up for his luggage. Then he noticed that the once-cheery salesman had his wary eyes fixed on the butt-end of his pistol that was concealed in his jacket.

"It's okay, I'm a cop," he replied with a confident smirk as he retrieved his belongings. "Trust me, I've been doing it for eleven years."

Suddenly, Marianne felt something large and furry knock her over the head. It was the giant teddy bear her father brought for John and Lucy. Her thick brown hair became charged with static electricity and stuck out all over the place.

"Hey, dad! Watch it!" she cried, combing her hair back and fixing it with her fingers. Her dad just chuckled. He turned around to head out of the plane, when he nearly bumped into a pretty stewardess. He grinned at her suggestively. She smiled back, flattered by his unspoken flirtatiousness. Seeing all of this, Marianne reached up tapped him on the shoulder.

"Cool it, Dad," she said. Good thing she lived with him, or he would've brought a woman home with him every night. So much for getting him back together with Mom. Marianne thought bitterly.

They made their way out of the plane and into the airport. John handed her the bear, and lit up a cigarette. Marianne made a face as she fanned the smoke away from her face with a magazine she had. She and her father kept their eyes locked onto the luggage track thing for their bags.

Within a few minutes, she and John grabbed their bags from the track. They followed the crowd through the airport. Marianne noticed her father stop and stare at a good-looking, belly-baring blonde, who let out a squeal and jumped onto a muscular young man that was standing a few feet behind him. John shook his head, baffled.

"California," he muttered sarcastically.

"Tell me about it," Marianne sighed, pulling her suitcase along with one hand, and holding the oversized bear with the other.

They walked for a few more feet, when they were met by crowds of suited men holding signs with people's names scribbled on them. Limo drivers. Nice, thought Marianne. As they were heading for the exit, she noticed one young driver wearing shades holding a neatly-written sign that said "J. McClane". She hurriedly stepped towards her father, and tugged his sleeve. He stopped and looked to where she was pointing. He approached the young man with wariness.

"Hey, I'm John McClane," he announced.

"Argyle," the young man replied. "I'm your limo driver." He smiled awkwardly. John nodded as he studied him. Argyle glanced at Marianne before addressing John again.

"Nice bear," he said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. John continued to study him for a moment longer, before he smiled – in indicator that he trusts him (to an extent).

"Okay... Argyle," he said. "Whadda we do, now?"

"Uh..." Argyle removed his glasses, revealing a pair of friendly dark eyes. "I...I was hoping you could tell me... It's my first time driving a limo."

"Ah, it's okay," John replied. "It's our first time riding in one." He turned to Marianne. "This is my daughter, Marianne."

"Nice meeting you," Argyle politely smiled at her. But he couldn't help checking her out for a brief fraction of a second. John caught it, however, and proceeded to warn him.

"She's seventeen," he said. Argyle glanced nervously at John, and gulped. Marianne managed to smile back at Argyle, despite her father's protectiveness.

John rode in the front seat by Argyle, Marianne sat in the back by the bear. She kept herself occupied with exploring all of the features in the vehicle. It was quite exciting to ride in a limo, despite the fact she had lived in New York City all her life.

"Relax," Argyle said to John, who was obviously a little annoyed about everything in particular. "We've got everything in this mug, man! Look at this! CD, CB, TV, telephone, full bar, VHS..." he laughed. "If your friend's hot to trot, I know a few mama bears to hook up with."

Marianne opened her mouth to protest, but Argyle kept talking: "Or is he married?"

"He's married," John quickly replied, but with not much enthusiasm. Marianne, however, sighed with relief. Argyle is not at stupid as he looks. She proceeded to occupy herself with her magazine.

"Okay..." Argyle wanted John to expound, but then he saw that John had found a piece of sandwich wrapping next to him. "Oh...sorry about that..." an embarrassed Argyle snatched up the paper and threw it in the back, hitting Marianne in the knee – much to her disgust. "It's the girl's day off. I didn't know you were gonna sit up front..." he went on.

Oh, go to friggin' hell, you slob! She seethed, kicking the paper aside with the pointy toe of her brown leather boots.

A short moment of awkward silence followed. "So, your lady live out here?" Argyle asked. Marianne squirmed. The subject of her parent's separation had always bugged her a good deal.

"About the past six months," John answered, inserting a cigarette into his mouth.

"Meaning you still live in New York?" Argyle concluded. John proceeded to light his cigarette. Marianne glared into the back of his head.

"You always ask so many questions, Argyle?" John retorted, impatience in his voice. Really! Shut up, Argyle! Marianne mentally shouted as she glared at Argyle's face through the rearview mirror. Argyle just laughed in reply.

"Sorry, man," he cheerily apologized. "I used to drive a cab and people would expect a little chit-chat." Without missing a beat, he proceeded to ask the worst question Marianne could imagine. "So, you divorced?"

"Just drive the car, man," John growled. Marianne proceeded to tune out the rest of the conversation, but she could still hear it – and it was painful for both her and her father.

"Hey, come on!" Argyle pressed on with impatience. "You divorced? You separated? She beat you up?" he laughed when he spoke the last one.

"She had a good job," John replied. "It turned into a great career."

"And to hell with the rest of us," Marianne mumbled. Luckily, they didn't hear her.

"That meant she had to move here," Argyle figured out.

"You're very fast, Argyle," John sarcastically complimented. Obviously, thought Marianne, not looking up from her magazine.

"So, why didn't you come?" Argyle quickly asked. John didn't answer. He was looking up at the great, beautiful structure of the Nakatomi building. Argyle didn't give up: "Well? Why didn't you come with her, man? What's up?"

"Because I'm a New York cop," John answered flatly. "I got a six-month backlog of New York scumbags I'm still trying to put behind bars. I just can't pick up and go that easy."

"In other words, you thought she wasn't gonna make it out here," Argyle said with laugher in his voice. "And she'd come crawling on back to you, so why bother to pack, huh?" He cracked up laughing. Marianne felt like kicking him around a bit for fun. But her dad was right...

"Like my Dad said, you're very fast, Argyle," she spoke up, her eyes still on the same sentence of a fashion article she had been 'reading' since she got in the limo back at the airport. They both were staring at her through the rearview mirror when she looked up at them.

"Mind if we hear some tunes?" Argyle asked after a moment. He shoved a cassette into the tape deck, pressed 'Play', and turned the volume up. Upbeat rap music filled the stale air of the limo. Marianne rocked her head to the beat. She's heard this song before...

"Yeah, that'll work," Argyle thought aloud about the music.

"Don't you got any Christmas music?" John sneered. He obviously hated this stuff. But his attitude didn't get Argyle down.

"This is Christmas music!" he happily stated. As Marianne listened to the music, the limo pulled into the round-about driveway in front of the building. John quickly got out, but Argyle started up his chatter again: "So your lady sees you, you run into her arms, the music comes up and you live happily ever after, right?"

"I can live with that," John replied, smushing out his cigarette with his shoe. He kept his eyes fixed on the building towering over him. Marianne decided to leave her stuff and the bear in the car for later.

"So if it doesn't work out, man, you two got a place to stay?" Argyle asked with concern.

"I'll find a place," John replied, a little half-heartedly.

"I'll tell you what," said Argyle. "I'm gonna pull in the parking garage, and I'll wait. You score, give me a call on the car phone." He handed John his card that had the limo phone number. "I'll take your bags to the desk. You strike out, I'll get you a hotel."

John smiled, pleased with Argyle's caring nature. "You're all right, Argyle." They shook hands.

"Just remember that when you sign for the tip," Argyle joked. Marianne smiled. "Thanks, Argyle," she said.

"You're welcome," Argyle smiled back. John shut the passenger door. He and Marianne walked through the rotating glass door into the building. The entrance was beautiful. Marianne gazed at the huge Christmas tree in the corner, at the company logo behind the great stone and wood desk an well-dressed desk clerk stood behind. She and John approached the desk.

"Hi," said John, getting the desk clerk's attention.

"Good evening," he replied.

"We're here to see Holly McClane," said John.

The desk clerk pointed his pencil towards the front of the desk. "Just type it in there."

Marianne blinked. Ooh, technology! She tapped her finger on the screen. The screen changed, and the alphabet appeared below "Nakatomi Plaza Directory: Touch Key With First Letter Of Person's Last Name". John smirked with amusement.

"Cute toy," he said. Marianne touched the letter "M" for 'McClane'. The screen changed again, displaying everyone with the last name beginning with 'M'.

"Yeah," the desk clerk agreed. "If you need to take a leak, it'll even help you find your zipper."

Marianne stopped herself from laughing at the joke as she and her father scanned the names. She pressed "Next Screen". The next page appeared. No "McClane" was visible. Marianne frowned...why wasn't her mother's name in the computer?

"Hit 'Exit'," John instructed. She complied. Her father reached around her, and hit the letter "G". Now she was confused. Why 'G'? The screen changed – and much to Marianne's horror, her mother's name was there: "Holly Gennaro".

"What?" she gasped under her breath. It was her mother's maiden name! She felt her rage build..

"Christ," John muttered, angered and frustrated. He hit the button with her name, and the screen changed to a map to her location in the building. "Thirtieth floor..." he wondered aloud.

"The party," the desk clerk explained. "They're the only ones left in the building." He pointed with his pencil to the left. "Take the express elevator. Get off where you hear the noise."

"Thanks," said John. Marianne cleared the screen, and they both headed under the archway where the desk clerk pointed. Although Marianne didn't notice it, but the desk clerk leaned forward over the desk to take in the view of Marianne's lovely booted legs and tight-fitting mauve miniskirt.

While whistling 'Jingle Bells' John slowly walked down the hall, studying his surroundings. He saw some security cameras in the corner, and a security guard leaning against the wall next to an elevator, picking his nails. John gave him a polite nod as he and Marianne rounded the opposite corner. He pressed the button on the express elevator, and they waited. John kept his eyes glued on the guard the entire time.

'Ding' went the elevator. The door opened, and John and Marianne stepped inside. Marianne pressed '30', the door slid shut, and the elevator started to move.

"You gonna be nice to Mom when you see her?" John said. Marianne shrugged.

"Sure why not?" she replied. "I mean, she's completely abandoned us, after all."

"Cool it, Marianne," he scolded. "I'm pretty sure she'll come around one of these days."

"What?" she gasped in mock surprise. "And leave all this? Yeah, right!"

" nice," John sighed. "It's Christmas Eve. We'll only stay for a couple of days, anyways."

Just then, Marianne heard 'party noises' growing louder and louder. The elevator stopped, and the doors opened. Inside was a great crowd of people, violin music, and Christmas decorations everywhere. "Wow," said Marianne with disgust. "These Californians sure can't pull it off, can they?"

"Got that one right," John replied. They walked into the party. A waiter approached them with a tray. "Champagne, sir?" he asked.

John took a glass with a "thank you". The waiter turned to Marianne. She held up her hand, and shook her head. "No, thank you."

They proceeded to make their way through the crowd. Men and woman drank and flirted with one another, laughing and talking. She looked around, and found the violinists above her, playing on the balcony.

The place was incredible. Indoor waterfalls, woodwork, stonework, and the list goes on. Damn! She thought with awe. John scanned the area for Holly. Shaking his head, he stepped down on some stairs as he took his first sip of the champagne.

Nearly gagging, he set the full cup on the tray of a passing waiter, and continued to search the area, walking slowly. Marianne noticed that he spotted an attractive blonde woman on the other side of the waterfall structure, leaning against a pillar and talking to a couple of coworkers. Marianne gave up. He won't stop eyeing women until he's back with her mother...but that was less likely than her father getting someone new.

"Oh! I'm sorry!" he said. Apparently, he had bumped into another woman with brown hair who wore a frightening pair of enormous red glasses. She raised her glass to him before she disappeared into the crowd. About a half second later, Marianne stopped short when a man bounded towards them and grabbed her father by the arm.

"Hey!" he grinned, planting a kiss on John's cheek. "Merry Christmas!"

Disgusted, John shoved him away, and wiped the kiss off his cheek. Marianne, however, was cracking up with laughter. She could hardly breathe. It was the funniest thing she had ever seen since she left New York.

"Jesus!" John gasped. "Fuckin' California!" He glared at Marianne, who still was laughing.

"It's not funny, Marianne!" he stated, red showing on his cheeks.

"Yeah, it is!" she laughed back. John's scowl softened, and he put an arm around his daughter.

"It's been a long time since I've last seen you laugh. I feel so much better, now," he said...a little sardonically at the end. At that moment, something caught his eye – a older Asian man standing by the offices, speaking with an older woman. They both approached him when he met eyes John's.

"Hi..." said John. "We're looking for..."

"Holly Gennaro," the man finished. He had a deep, commanding voice with perfect English. American born and raised, Marianne was certain.

"...Yeah..." answered John. The Asian man smiled warmly, glad to finally meet him.

"Then you must be John McClane," he said with his smile. "Joe Takagi." He shook hands with John. "How was your ride in?"

"Nice," John answered. "I have you to thank for that?"

"Seemed the least we could do," Takagi grinned. His gaze fell on Marianne. "And this is..."

"My daughter, Marianne," John introduced, with some pride in his voice.

"How do you do, Marianne?" Takagi smiled, shaking her hand. His hand felt warm and comforting. She liked him – he was genuinely friendly, and not an annoying pain in the ass.

"Quite a place you have here, Mr. Takagi," she complimented.

"It will be if we ever get it finished," he said. "Still several floors under construction." He turned to John. "Holly went to the vault room to fax some documents. She should be back in any minute..." They started into the office area. "In the meanwhile, her office is right back here." Takagi opened the office door, bearing the name "H. M. Gennaro. Director. Corporate Affairs". Marianne had to roll her eyes after reading all of that.

Sounds of sniffing brought her attention. She looked into the far end of the office and saw a man sitting at her mother desk snorting coke! Marianne stopped, her eyes wide. Who the friggin' hell is this loser?!

"Ellis?" Takagi asked, addressing the cokehead. Ellis (the cokehead) nervously licked off his finger, pocketed his stuff, and wiped off the desk as he stood. Marianne felt her stomach churn. Doesn't Takagi give his employees drug tests?

"I was just making a call," he said, approaching them. "This was the nearest phone."

"Yeah, right," Marianne muttered. Takagi and John shot her a look. She just glared at Ellis like he was a pile of dog crap.

"I want you to meet John McClane," Takagi said awkwardly. "Holly's husband." Ellis approached John. "Holly's policeman," Takagi continued. "And this is Marianne, their daughter." Marianne forced herself to smile at Ellis. Then he proceeded to introduce Ellis to John and Marianne "Ellis is in charge of International Development."

Looks to me like Ellis shouldn't be in charge of anything, Marianne thought, still glowering at him. Ellis shook hands with John.

"Heard a heck of a lot about you," Ellis grinned, sniffing. John proceeded to walk past him to Holly's desk.

"Missed some," John quipped as he passed Ellis. As Marianne smirked, Ellis rubbed his nose, and sniffed some more as he turned to Marianne, who was tempted to scream and run away, but smiled coldly and forced herself to shake his outstretched hand. He gave her a suggestive look-over as he smiled.

Ew. Ew. Ew. She felt her stomach churn. Touching this creepy cokehead... Just plain ew!

"Can I get you anything?" Takagi managed to break the silence. "Food, cake, some watered-down champagne?" He said the last part with a little laugh.

"No, thank you," John answered, looking at a family photo that had been laid face-down. "I'm fine." He turned to Takagi. "You throw quite a party. I didn't realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan."

"We're flexible," Takagi answered. "Pearl Harbor didn't work out, so we got you with tape decks." Marianne was puzzled. Tape decks? I don't get it... But Ellis's squawky, phony laugh threw her off even more. She cringed.

"Actually, it's sort of a double celebration," Ellis explained. "We uh...we closed a pretty big deal today, and a lot of it was due to Holly, am I right, Jo-Jo?" He smacked Takagi on the arm. Marianne flinched. This guy was just plain horrible, and he irked her to the bone. John ignored him and continued to study the pictures.

Just then, a familiar voice brought them all to attention. Holly came in through the doorway, and halted at the sight of Marianne and John. John turned and gave her his sweet signature 'smirk'.

"...John..." said Holly, barely above a whisper. "Marianne..." She forced herself to step forward, setting a file down on the desk en route. "Have you met everyone?" she asked as she embraced Marianne. "You look beautiful, sweetie," she whispered, kissing her daughter on the cheek. Marianne was tempted to talk her into quitting and coming with her and her dad back to New York – but she knew that she would never leave this high-rolling life in a fancy company. "Thanks, Mom, so do you," Marianne said, smiling.

"Naw, we've been sticking them with spears," Takagi joked at her first question. "Of course they have!"

Holly walked over to John, who kissed her on the cheek. Marianne felt her heart soar, seeing them so some sort of friendly affection to each other after so long.

"She was made for the business," Takagi continued. "Tough as nails." Marianne knew he was complimenting her out of kindness, but she still wanted him shut up about her career for once.

"I was hoping you two made that flight," said Holly, backing away towards Marianne.

"Show him the watch," Ellis spoke up. Marianne turned to him. He was eying John with contempt. Watch? What watch? She wondered. What's up with this guy?

"Later," Holly said to Ellis, a little annoyed that he brought it up. Marianne was horrified when she understood what he was talking about. He had bought her mother a watch!

"Well, go on! Show him! What, are you embarrassed?" Ellis said...a little loudly. Marianne cringed again. Nightmare...nightmare.... She closed her eyes.

"It's just a small token of appreciation for all her hard work," Ellis cockily continued. "It's a Rolex." He glanced over at Marianne, who was staring at her mother with shock. "I'll get you one, too, if you like."

Shooting Ellis a glare, she politely turned down his offer. "No, thank you. I don't work here."

Everyone laughed at her sarcastic line, but not everyone was comfortable with her comment – Holly and Ellis. John was proud, and Takagi was amused.

"I'm sure we'll see it later," John cooly answered. "Is there a place where I could wash up?"

Holly shrugged and smiled warmly at him. "Sure." Everyone proceeded to follow her out. Ellis and Takagi walked into the party without a word, and Marianne followed after her parents – when she realized that she needed her purse in order to refresh herself. She had left it in the limo!

"Uh, Dad?" she called. They stopped and waited for her to catch up with them. "I need to get my purse out of the limo."

"Fine, go ahead," John said.

"Be careful, honey," Holly smiled.

Without another word, Marianne turned on her heel, and walked quickly in the other direction towards the party.

It was nice being alone for a moment. Marianne's boots clicked against the cement of the parking garage as she headed for the limo in the distance. She could see Argyle's head in the backseat. Hopefully, he's not a jerk and didn't go though my bag! She thought, picking up the pace.

Once she reached the limo, she could hear that Argyle has music up at full blast. She knocked on the window. Argyle, surprised, leaned into the front seat, and unlocked the door. She opened it.

"Any luck with your dad and mom?" he asked after turning the music down.

"Maybe," she answered. "Hey, do you see my purse back there? I need the makeup."

"Sure, no problem!" Argyle said as he went back into the back seat to look for it. Just then, a black truck bearing the name "Pacific Courier" pulled in and drove across to the far end of the garage. Marianne turned around and watched it disappear around a corner.

"I found it! It's right here," Argyle handed her a white leather bag. "You aren't staying?"

"I would rather see my parents get back together," Marianne laughed. "Are you coming in?"

"Nah," Argyle grinned. "I'm having more fun out here!"

Marianne furrowed her brow. "Are you sure?"

"Sure I'm sure!" Argyle laughed. "Go on and have fun, cupid!"

She laughed at his joke, and shut the door. As she walked back across the garage, she opened her purse and checked the insides to make sure everything was there.