Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Flashback by Jared Sandman: Spotlight with Excerpt




Date PublishedMarch 2014

In the annals of Hollywood cinema, the name Gregory Kincaid is as synonymous with Jack the Ripper as Bela Lugosi to Dracula. He portrayed the infamous serial murderer in half a dozen films, spanning a five-decade career filled with monster movies and sci-fi schlock. Twenty years ago, weary of celebrity's harsh spotlight, he withdrew from public life, never to be seen again -- until now.


After a wartime accident seriously injures journalist Jenny Pearce, she turns her attention to reporting entertainment news. More comfortable on the frontlines than the red carpet, she jumps at the opportunity to track down the notoriously reclusive Kincaid.


The damaged pair forges an unlikely friendship, working together to write the actor's memoir. Except someone doesn't want Kincaid's tell-all all told, somebody who aims to protect secrets best left buried. Fighting for their lives, Kincaid and Pearce are forced to unravel a murder mystery gone unsolved for over seventy years.




The drive itself took twenty-four minutes.  Situated on the western edge of Griffith Park, Arrowhead Canyon snaked its way up the Hollywood Hills to give a striking overview of the Hollywood Reservoir.  Jenny craned her neck to spy the house numbers on individual mailboxes.  She slowed her van as she approached the end of the cul-de-sac.

“Gotcha,” she whispered upon sighting 3001.

A rusted wrought iron gate barred entrance at the mouth of the driveway.  Kincaid’s home lay hidden behind a thick hedge of bushes.  Jennifer was able to glimpse the roof only as she parked streetside.

The reporter tried the main gate and found it locked, naturally.  What would be the point of an unlocked gate?  With no callbox available, she hadn’t any choice but to ignore the posted BEWARE OF DOG sign and forge her own path ahead.

She walked the length of the road-facing bushes until she found an area where the verbena hedges thinned a bit.  Crouching down, she scooted her way through and batted away branches with her bare hands.  An errant twig caught her blouse and poked a hole through the fabric.  She growled in frustration before emerging more or less unscathed on the other side.

Now inside the property’s perimeter, Jenny had a full view of the Kincaid residence.  The building projected a heavy Old World influence, with white exterior stucco, a pantile roof, ornamental window grilles and an ornate, towering chimney.  Pure Spanish Revival.

She crossed the front yard in a state of self-consciousness; the windows of the home looked like staring eyes, and Jenny was well aware anyone inside the house could be watching her. 

Keeping lookout for a certain dog to beware, Jenny straightened her hair and charged up the paved driveway.  If there was one thing she’d learned from her years in journalism, it was how rarely someone would question her if she walked with a clipboard, a brisk step and a sense of purpose.

Jennifer didn’t see any parked cars; however, she did spy an unattached garage, so it was possible someone was home.  She walked to the front door and, noting the lack of a doorbell, instead used the gargoyle-shaped doorknocker.

Four sharp rap-rap-rap-raps.  No answer.

A minute later she knocked thrice more, hard enough to hurt her knuckles.

Jenny waited on the front stoop for almost three minutes.  She listened for any sound coming from behind the door, any sign of movement inside.  Nothing.

Briefly she considered leaving a note.  What would she write — Hey, old-timer, you still alive?  Her alternative was to come back later and try again, which didn’t much appeal to her.  If she’d made the trip out here, she wanted to at least get an answer as to whether Kincaid still owned the property.

She left the stoop and walked around to the side yard.  A trellis of jasmine crawled up one outer wall, the uppermost tendrils of ivy scratching at the second-story windows.  A flower garden had been planted in the backyard, the centerpiece of which was a well-stocked koi pond.  She went around to the rear of the home and peered through one of the windows.  Holding her hands around her eyes to cut the glare, Jenny was able to peer directly into the kitchen.

She looked about, searching for any clue that an actor might live in the house.  Framed movie posters on the walls, for example, or film trophies on the mantle.  Anything to tell whether she was wasting her time.

Jenny saw nothing in her narrow view that told her an actor resided in the house; of course, she found no supporting evidence otherwise either.  She sighed and continued her trek around the perimeter.  As she turned the corner to the western side of the house, she stopped dead in her tracks.

“Can I help you?”

The words came with a slight accent, one Jenny couldn’t place because she was too focused on the shotgun pointed at her.

Jenny’s hands shot skyward.  “Don’t shoot.  My name’s Jennifer Pearce.”

“You’re trespassing.”

“And I apologize for that, sincerely.  It’s just I’m looking for someone.  Is this your house?”

“I live here,” the Asian woman said with a nod.

“Can you put that gun away?  Please?  Or at least point it somewhere else.”

The woman gave Jenny a once-over, sizing up whether the reporter was a potential threat.  Deeming the unarmed stranger harmless, she shouldered the firearm.  “Oh, this?  It ain’t loaded,” she said.  “Just for show.  You aren’t the first overzealous fan I’ve had to chase off.”

Fan?  Maybe Jenny was on the right track after all.

“Did the gentleman who used to live here leave a forwarding address when he moved?”

“No one else has ever lived here.”

The comment left Jenny nonplussed.  “You told me this is your house.”

“I said I lived here, didn’t say it was my place.  Mr. Kincaid owns it.  I’m his live-in nurse.”

A shotgun-toting nurse, Jenny thought.  What have I gotten myself into?

The good news was that Jenny appeared to have located Gregory Kincaid.  Whether she’d be allowed to meet the man was up for debate.

Jenny turned on her biggest smile.  “May I speak with Mr. Kincaid?  I promise not to take up much of his time.”

“He doesn’t do autographs.”

“I’m not here for that.”  The reporter hoped to smooth over any perceived slights.  “Looks like we got off on the wrong foot.  That’s my fault, I know.  I apologize.  Let’s try this again.  My name’s Jenny.”  She extended her hand.  “You are?”

The Asian woman stared at the hand for a moment.  Finally she reached out to greet it.  The strength of her handshake startled Jenny.  “I’m Kameko.”

“Nice to meet you, Kameko.  Would it be possible to visit with Mr. Kincaid?  I was told he lived here.  If a meeting isn’t possible today, can we set up a later appointment?  At his convenience, of course.”


Jenny still found the shotgun distracting.  “Pardon?”

Who told you Mr. Kincaid lives here?”

“Oh.  Howard Shultz,” she said.  While that wasn’t the honest truth, it was near enough.  “Mr. Kincaid’s longtime agent.  Howie sent me.”  Jenny remembered how Shultz’s widow casually referred to her husband as Howie; Jenny thought perhaps calling him that would make it sound like the two of them were chummy friends.

Let her in,” a voice called from on high, like a commandment from the heavens.

Both women looked up to discover a second-story window open directly above them.  Just a crack, enough to let their conversation drift into the house.  Due to the glare of the morning light, Jenny couldn’t make out a face behind the glass panel.  All she saw was a dark figure that shut the window a moment later.

“You’re lucky,” Kameko told the interloper.  “I was gonna ask you to leave.”

“And if I didn’t?” Jenny asked, emboldened by the unexpected intervention.

“The cops would’ve made you leave.  In handcuffs.”  The nurse turned toward the driveway.  “Com’on, this way.”
May 12 - May 24


Jared Sandman


Jared Sandman lives on Florida's Gulf Coast, where he's working on his next book.  Visit his website at JAREDSANDMAN.COM for free stories, updates and discounts, or follow him on Twitter (@JaredSandman).


Twitter: (@JaredSandman)






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