The night skyline of downtown Los Angeles sparkled like diamonds from the 14th floor penthouse suite of Houston Enterprises as the four of them returned after a night spent dining at a favorite restaurant in Chinatown.
C.J. had picked it remembering how much she'd like to meet up there with her college friend Connie Ling before that woman's murder two years ago. When she went there, she remembered the fun times they had catching up over a delicious meal. Tonight she'd been with her boyfriend Robert Tyler double dating with her best friend Matt and his Uncle Roy. It'd been a very festive occasion but her eyes had been on her new boyfriend who'd come to L.A. to take a reporting job at a local network and swept her off her feet in the process.
He wasn't exactly new. She and Matt had met him while attending Rice University. While Matt had been a star quarterback and business major, she'd been an honor student who studied pre-law and pledged a sorority. Robert had been a film major who aspired to produce documentaries and lined up more than one fellowship to pursue his craft.
But he'd been a bit carefree and reckless leaving Matt and C.J. to clean up after him at times, something that actually bonded them more closely.
The four of them went out on the roof area. Robert holding C.J.'s hand. While the men were in black tux, she wore her new white gown that she'd picked up at a boutique in Century City.
"They sure don't throw parties like that back home Houston," Robert said, "Made me feel like a visiting dignitary."
"Oh that you are," Matt said, "We had to do something to celebrate your six week anniversary here in Los Angeles."
Roy proposed a toast.
"To at least six more I hope…"
C.J. raised her glass to Robert.
"To at least 60 more."
Soon it was like only she and Robert were standing on the helipad gazing into each other's eyes as they sipped their Scotch. At some point, Matt and Roy had headed on out giving them their privacy.
The two of them strolled to the edge of the building to look out at greater L.A.
"Robert I'm so excited about tomorrow. The most famous recluse since Howard Hughes…I mean he's turned down Barbara Walters, Dan Rather but he's agreed to talk to you."
Robert just smiled at her.
"I have got more important things on my mind."
"More important than preparing for an interview with Richard Daniels? Daniels doesn't just give interviews to anybody."
"I know but right now I'm distracted by something that I want to say to you."
"Yeah, it's amazing how I can be so witty and urbane in front of television cameras," he said, "but standing here in front of you my stomach getting butterflies."
"When I came to L.A. I was determined to concentrate on my career," he said, "of course I knew that you and Houston were here but well, I didn't expect to fall in love with you."
Now C.J. felt some butterflies in her stomach.
"I know I'm not as classy as some of the guys that you dated," he said, "I know I'm on the treadmill trying to cog my way…"
"And you will…"
"C.J…I want to marry you."
To say she felt overwhelmed by his words was an understatement, she didn't know what to say.
"Does that mean no?"
She almost felt speechless but she finally found some words.
"No…I mean no…it means I don't know what to say."
"Well say yes; say you need time to think about it but whatever you do, don't take too long. I don't think I could stand it."
She smiled softly.
"I'm tempted to give you an answer now but the lawyer in me has trained me to examine the evidence first."
He smiled deprecatory.
"Trial by jury…so what are my chances?"
"I'd say you have a sound case."
Not long after that, he'd taken her home and she'd just changed into her pajamas and crashed, knowing she had a long day at the Daniels estate beginning in the morning. Robert had invited her to attend the garden party which would celebrate his wife's birthday.
But as she lay on her bed, all she could think about was his proposal of sorts. Not really official just that he wanted to marry her. A part of her wanted to say yes, let's do it but that part of her didn't make her decisions. She'd fallen so hard and fast for Robert and it'd been so unexpected.
She'd never dated him before, never considered him more than a friend who made her laugh and who still had the little boy inside of him even as he showed her he'd had career ambitions. They'd just decided to go out to dinner casually, her Matt and Robert at a restaurant in Venice. But soon enough, she'd fallen for him despite her cautious attitude.
She'd started dating again after Matt had solved the murder that he'd been framed for, the one that had sent him on the run where he reunited with Uncle Roy. Roy had been a recluse in New Mexico where he'd moved after retiring from being a covert operative. His wife had died in her sleep one night and their only child had died in a war fought on foreign soil.
But if it hadn't been for him, Matt might have still been on the run and after he'd been free again, Roy had relocated to L.A. living in a condo on the Westside and he'd played a large role in Matt's investigative agency.
C.J. had spent her time there too but had taken on more legal challenges, flexing her Harvard Law School education. She'd also had to recover fully from getting shot while trying to clear Matt and then when she thought death was imminent, she'd told him that she loved him.
God, she wasn't sure why she'd done that now. They'd survived leaving a burning building in a hail of gunfire and he'd never really responded to her declaration of love. She didn't really expect it, after all they'd never been anything but close friends…time to move on with the rest of her life.
But marrying Robert…such a big step and would she be ready to take it…and why did the thought fill her with both excitement and trepidation?
The estate was quite impressive as she and Robert walked the grounds. She didn't wear anything fancy, just an orange pantsuit and a belt. She was so excited watching the guests begin to arrive while the final arrangements were being made to make it a festive occasion.
But she and Robert stood there before his interview kissing each other, forgetting everything else until a network technician came up and interrupted them, telling Robert that it was time to interview Richard Daniels at the house.
"I'll be right there…thanks."
He apologized to C.J. but she just grinned.
"Well a reporter's life is filled with interruptions."
"I'd better hurry unless I want to be demoted to weatherman."
Then he kissed her goodbye…for now and they wrapped arms around each other as they walked away towards the interview of his career. Damn she was so proud of him and he looked so dashing and sexy in his suit with his devil may care smile on his face.
Robert hooked up with Richard and with cameras on them both they walked together while Robert asked him questions. Starting with rumors that the former tycoon had become a recluse.
"Well if I'm a recluse, it's just that I found a reason in my happiness and I make sure nobody disturbs that happiness."
Simon looked over as Barbara Daniels, Richard's lovely wife joined them.
"And that reason is of course you're lovely wife…Ms Daniels, what'd happen if tomorrow your husband lost all his millions?"
She just laughed.
"I'd go out and get a job.."
C.J. watched him do what he did and loved best and saw how much he thrived on it. Then she looked up as three clowns pushed what looked like a multi-tier birthday cake on a cart towards them. One clown bounded up to Barbara and knelt as if asking her to dance and then swooped her up in his arms for a waltz around the grass. She seemed a bit surprised but enjoyed it as the cameramen followed her. Spinning around and twirling her as she smiled. C.J. could tells she was a fun loving woman as she watched her.
Suddenly gun shots tore through the air, interrupting the gaiety. C.J. widened her eyes as she saw that the dancing clown had a gun and his grip on Barbara had become menacing.
Finally he spoke.
"Don't anyone try to be a hero."
"This is a kidnapping…"
The other two clowns in the background pulled out guns and fired them causing people to nearly panic though the only people who moved were the camera man capturing it all on video.
Suddenly Richard stepped forward.
"Now look. I'll go with you. I'll do anything you want but leave my wife alone."
Suddenly the clown saw the camera aimed at him and rushed towards it striking it with his arm.
"Turn that thing off."
The clown wrestled with Robert and flung him on a table filled with refreshments and it toppled over on top of him. C.J.'s adrenalin kicked in and she rushed towards him shielding him with her body and pleading with the kidnappers.
She didn't want him to get shot by them. The lead clown seemed indecisive about what to do, just staring at her and Robert, the gun in his hand. Then he backed away and joined the two other clowns who had grabbed Robert.
When Richard lunged towards them, the lead clown blocked him as they shoved Barbara into a huge white truck with "Three Ring Catering" on the side.
"We'll call with instructions."
The lead clown joined the others and the truck raced off, away from the stunned partygoers. C.J.'s heart thudded in her chest as she and Robert got on their feet. He ordered an associate to call the police and then grabbed a microphone from a camera man asking him if they were live.
Then he did what he did best.
"This is Robert Tyler live from the scene of the Barbara Daniels kidnapping…"
C.J. watched him amazed at his cool professionalism as if he hadn't just had his own life threatened. She could barely stop her hands from shaking. More concerned about him than herself. Had she almost lost him?
Later at the KPRW television headquarters, C.J. watched in a sound area as Robert served as anchor for the news broadcast. He calmly announced that they would be showing exclusive coverage taken of the kidnapping of Daniels' wife.
C.J. watched what she'd seen live broadcast to viewers everywhere.
"According to FBI and local authorities no ransom demands had yet been received…"
She figured that soon enough the kidnappers would call Richard with their demands that would have to be fulfilled before Barbara's release.
Robert looked so solemn.
"More news after this commercial break..."
She watched him take his break; drink some water as a makeup artist fussed over him. She'd been trying to relax after the events of that afternoon.
She turned around and saw Matt and Roy enter the sound area.
"Oh Matt, thanks for coming."
She rushed to meet him and he hugged her tightly giving her a kiss. He held onto her arms looking into her face.
"We heard about the kidnapping are you all right?"
"I'm just a little bit shaken up," she said, "He feels guilty about it...responsible."
Matt looked incredulous.
"It's not his fault."
A nearby technician picked up the phone and then called to the news desk.
"Robert…I got a woman on the phone that says she's Barbara Daniels."
That caught everyone's attention. Robert looked over as makeup artists continue to fuss over him.
"She said the kidnappers want her to read you a message on the air."
C.J. and Matt looked at each other, wondering why the kidnapper contacted Robert.
"Well how do you know it's really her?"
"I don't…what should we do?"
Robert thought fast as he sipped his water.
"Ask her the name of her dog."
The tech did that and then said back, Marzipan. Robert sighed.
"Oh boy that's really her…All right Bill I'll take it live."
Matt and C.J. just stood together watching it unfold. Everyone's eyes were back on Robert as he narrated that during the break, Barbara Daniels had called.
He picked up the phone.
"Barbara Daniels are you there?"
"I have to read a statement from the kidnappers."
She added that there would be discussion of a ransom and Robert was to be the go between.
"The kidnappers want me to be the go between?"
"It goes on to say we'll call you at your home tomorrow Tyler…no police…no FBI…no interference of any kind or we'll kill her."
Robert jotted this all down on paper.
"Please tell my husband that I love him…"
Then the phone went dead. C.J. felt fear in her chest as she watched Robert call desperately on the phone.
"I don't like this."
She left Matt and he and his uncle soon followed her as she went to see Robert. He seemed okay from his experience and excited that he'd be on the front lines of a major kidnapping story.
"I've got a ton of prep work to do…can I see you later?"
She watched as employees buzzed around him and left with Matt and his uncle. She felt scared suddenly, not able to bear it if anything happened to him. Robert had always been a bit reckless and she wondered if this time it might get him killed.
Matt took her out to dinner partly to get her to relax. She knew he worried about her, that hearing on the news that Barbara Daniels' party had been interrupted by kidnappers had caused him concern knowing she'd been there.
She'd gone home and changed while he waited for her and then they took off to a quiet restaurant where they clinked glasses.
"I wish Robert was here with us."
"Well romance conquers all except requests from the FBI and the police…"
She sighed, fear filling her and she knew she couldn't hide it from Matt because he knew her better than anyone.
"It's scary how I feel about him Houston."
Not easy words to say, because they tapped into far back in her life.
"You love him?"
He waited patiently for her answer.
"I think so…It's just that it's been sort of an ongoing thing since I was a little kid and my dad died. I think I'd been afraid to love anybody too much…Afraid they'd be taken away from me."
She knew he knew her history from the day her father died to losing her dear boyfriend Carl to a stalker a year ago.
"Well I'm still around."
She laughed affectionately, taking his hand and squeezing it. He's been the one constant in her life after all and she loved him more than anyone. She even loved him in that special way but she'd put that on the line once and well, she guessed he didn't return her feelings. She could live with that because he'd been her best friend.
"Look C.J. if you really love Robert…and he loves you as much as he seems to then I can't think of anything else that really matters."
But ambiguity pulled at her anyway.
"It's just that I'm afraid to lose him and if he's going to meet with those kidnappers Houston…"
"Well I know a pretty good private eye who probably offer some discreet protection…"
She smiled at him.
"What would I do without you?"
He held tightly onto her hands with his own looking at her.
"Probably pay for the dinner."
They lifted their classes to clink together.
But as they got up to leave, she wondered to herself, what would she do without him in her life? She felt more than uneasy about this whole kidnapping deal Robert had gotten himself into which reminded her of his exploits since college. But at least with Matt there, he'd be safe.