Episode 23: Bleak House

MTV Breaking News

Jaxton Ayers, bass player for Slaughterhouse Five, is an a coma at St. Catherine’s in New Orleans after being assaulted at an abandoned drive-in movie theater.  His girlfriend, Lana Radley, the notorious former NOPD police officer, is the chief suspect and a massive manhunt is underway...


Sam, Toni, Jon, Simon, and Mike are all sitting in the private waiting room, looking down at their phones, when Bettina walks in.  Toni is the first to see her, and rushes over to give her hug as they both burst into tears.  Why?  Bettina asks Toni.  Sam looks up.  Isn’t it obvious?  He’s been cheating on Lana.  Bettina looks at her in shock.  Don’t let this get out, Betty, but there were pictures found at the crime scene.  Shot in black in white.  Someone sent them to her.  Any guesses who would do that?

Bettina takes a deep breath, and looks over at Simon, who has his head in his hands.  She goes over and sits next to him and offers him her hand.  He takes it, and she leans against him and rubs his arm with her other hand, and they look at the floor.  Has anyone called his parents?  I’m picking them up at the airport, Jon replies.  Is there a room available for them here?  So they don’t have to drive back and forth?  Bettina asks.  Jon nods, and walks out of the waiting room.

What’s his status?  He’s in ICU, Mike replies.  No visitors yet.  I don’t believe that Jax would cheat on Lana, Bettina says.  I want a complete blood workup and tox report done.  Everybody cheats, Bettina.  Mike tells her.  NO, they don’t.  She replies.  Simon pats her hand gently and then gets up and heads out of the room.

Have you called Rolf?  Bettina asks Mike.  Mike nods.  None of us can get ahold of him.

Bettina’s cell phone rings.  No, I don’t know where she is.  Absolutely not.  <Pause> No, I won’t; I’m staying at the hospital.  <Pause>  Then get a search warrant, and serve me in person.  I’m at St. Catherine’s.  She disconnects.  Everyone looks at Bettina.  I left a post-it note on our door with my phone number, she explains.

Jon and Simon come back in twenty minutes later.  I’ve booked several rooms, we can take turns sleeping, Jon tells Sam, and hands her a key card.  Wake me so I’m around when his parents get here, she tells Mike.  He nods.  And she and Toni walk off.

Where do you think she is?  Simon asks Bettina.  Rolf’s.  Bettina replies.  Otherwise he’d be here.

A couple of hours later, Simon is napping on Bettina’s shoulder when Rolf walks in the door.  Rolf motions for her to stay put, and sits next to her and takes her hand.  What’s going on? She whispers.  Jax should pull through.  The cranial pressure has been relieved.  He’s not going to be playing guitar anytime soon though.  She broke his fingers.

Did Lana come see you?  Rolf nods.  She’s sleeping it off in her room.  What happened?  She stopped by with Kostamo; he’s watching the drive to make she gets a good night’s sleep.  What if the cops come with a search warrant?  He’ll handle it, Bettina.  Is her car out front?  Rolf shakes his head no.

Why?  Bettina asks.  Do the police have the pictures as evidence?  Bettina nods. Why?  Bettina asks again.  If you had the power to destroy, would you use it, Bettina? It would be hard not to if I was the one who was wronged, Rolf.

What is she going to do?  She’ll plead the Fifth tomorrow.  There were no security cameras.  They won’t be able to hold her.  Toni said that Raul was distraught when he brought Jax to the emergency room, and that he is now being held for questioning, but has lawyered up.

Jon comes into the waiting room with Jax’s parents, and Rolf stands up and goes over to hug his mother.  What’s his status, Rolf?  Let’s go find out.  You speak their language, so they’ll talk to you.

Jax’s dad and Bettina look at each other, as Jon goes to get Mike up.  She pats the empty seat next to her.  What happened?  I don’t want to speculate about it until I know more, Bettina replies.  Has she called you?  Bettina shakes her head no.  Have you tried calling her?  Bettina shakes her head no.

Bettina’s father comes into the waiting room with Captain Ron.  Simon, Bettina says, and shakes him a little.  He groggily looks at her, and then looks around.  She lets go of his arm, and gets up and goes and hugs her dad.  I want you staying with me until this is resolved, he tells her.  Do you know where she is?  The police captain asks her.  I haven’t talked to her since I left for work this morning, Bettina answers.  That’s not what I asked, the captain replies.  I’m not going to speculate where she could be, Bettina replies.  If you know, tell him, her father warns her sternly.  She’s at Rolf’s, Simon says suddenly.  You know this how?  Because he never showed.  What are you talking about?  He was just here, sitting with you and Bettina when we got here, Jax’s father says.  He and my wife are speaking to the physicians now.  Sam and Toni and Mike come into the room with Jon.  Mike goes up and wraps Jax’s father up in a hug and starts bawling, while Toni goes over and gives Bettina’s dad a side hug.

Rolf and Jax’s mother come back into the room, Rolf has his arm around her shoulder.  This is attempted murder.  She tells the police captain.  On behalf of my son, I want you to press charges to the fullest extent on the law.  Rolf nods his agreement.

Is Lana Radley at your house?  The police captain asks Rolf.  Lana has nothing to do with this, Jax’s mother snaps.  This is all the work of blackmailers, who hurt my son when he wouldn’t give into their demands.  Go and find them.  Now get out of my sight.   The police captain leaves the room abruptly.

Toni’s a good cop; she’ll get to the bottom of it, Rolf whispers to Jax’s mother, who stares at Toni for a little while, then drops her head.  I’m exhausted.  Jon, show me to my room please.  She grabs Rolf’s hand.  Thank you for being here.  Her husband follows her and Jon out of the waiting room.

What’s the news?  Everyone looks at Rolf.  They’re going to keep him sedated for a couple of days to let the swelling in his brain go down.  His guitar hand is a mess: his forearms are fractured, likely defensive wounds.  And he’s got a lot of broken ribs.  Lower body is undamaged.

I don’t believe for one minute that Jax would willingly cheat on Lana.  My hypothesis is that a team of blackmailers targeted Jax specifically and roofied him, took advantage of him, then threatened to send pictures to Lana if he didn’t pay up.  If I’m right, there may be a set of compromising photos waiting at your apartment, Bettina.  Do you still have a key?  Bettina asks Toni.  She nods.  Handle it for me, please.

I’m not buying it, Tom says.  You’re bypassing the simplest explanation: Lana did it.

Who benefits having Lana on the run and Jax out of the picture?  Mike asks rhetorically.

You need to stop talking, Sam intones.  We are not to bear false witness, she adds.  I’m glad to hear you say that, Tom replies.  It’s late.  Are you going to spend the night with your friends or head home with me?  Let’s go home, Bettina tells him.

Jon sees Bettina and her father heading out as he comes back in.  She grabs his forearm and gives him a kiss on the cheek.  Thank you for stepping up, Jon.  Then she walks away.

I say we go with Rolf’s cover story, Simon says.  Blackmail.  And some anomalies in the tox report, Sam adds.

What is Lana going to do?  Lawyer up and plead the Fifth, Rolf replies.  If she does, she’ll lose her PI license, Toni says.  Is she at your place?  Simon asks.  Rolf nods.  She’s sleeping it off.  What did she have to say?  Get some sleep, he tells those assembled, and walks out of the room.


Bettina gets up and turns her phone on, and carries it with her out into the kitchen where her dad is wide awake and drinking coffee.  Any news?  He shakes his head no.  I’m going back to bed, Bettina tells him.  I don’t want to face the day yet.

An hour later, as she stares at the ceiling wide awake, her phone chirps.  She sees it’s Lana calling and hurriedly answers.  Are you okay?  Yes.  How are you?  I’m staying at daddy’s.  What happened?  Not over the phone, Bettina.  Lana, what are you going to do?  I’m heading down to the station to turn myself in.  I’ll take you.  No, I don’t want you involved in this.  Deluca is going with me.

Lana, if you confess, I’m going to confess to being an accomplice.  I’ll say that I helped plan the whole thing.  Bettina, Lana sighs.  When the police arrest me for smashing his car to smithereens and tagging his mansion with spray paint…  Bettina, NO.  Do not meddle with strife not belonging to you. Bettina is silent.  I love you, Lana tells her, and hangs up.


There’s a gaggle of microphones stuck in Lana’s face, and a battery of cameras going off as she walks with Deluca towards the police station.

Two detectives bring Lana into an interview room.  This conversation is being recorded, a detective announces, after stating his name, the date and time and location.  Let the record state that the witness has not been Miranda-ized, Deluca interjects.  Please state your full name and occupation, a detective tells Deluca.  You will refer to me as Counselor, Deluca tells the detectives.  I’m an associate of Ms. Radley, and am speaking on her behalf.  She wishes to stand mute, and hear any charges that are being brought against her.

Please state your full name, residence, and occupation for the record.  A detective tells Lana.  Here is a copy of her driver’s license and her private investigator’s license.  Deluca hands two sheets of paper across the table.  Are you going to read my associate her Miranda rights at this time?  The detectives give Deluca an annoyed look.

Please wait here while we get guidance, the older one says.  Leave the door unlocked.  My client needs to use the restroom frequently.  Locking the door without being charged will constitute false imprisonment.

Captain Ron comes into the room five minutes later with the detectives.  He states the time, his full name, and his badge number.  Radley, walk us through the events of last night.  Be specific, captain.  What are the events in question?  Deluca asks.  The assault with homicidal intent upon Jaxton Ayers at the abandoned drive-in movie theater.  Is my associate a suspect?  She’s a person of interest, with close ties to the hospitalized man.  If you have charges to file, then present them.  The captain is silent.  We have a witness who places her at the scene, a detective says.  Liar.  Deluca says flatly.  Are you charging my associate with a crime?  <Silence>  Is she free to leave? <Silence>

Captain Ron leans forward, his arms on the table.  Cancer was too good for him.  Lana abruptly launches herself across the table and headbutts him.  The detectives quickly cuff her, as the police captain swears profusely.  You’re under arrest for assaulting an officer.  You have the right to remain silent…

What are you looking at?  The police captain roars as he comes out of the interview room, blood streaming down his mouth from his broken nose.  Get me to a hospital.


Bettina and her father watch on TV as Deluca comes out of the police station and is thronged by reporters.  My associate, Lana Radley, is under arrest for assaulting a police officer.  She presented herself to the authorities to hear any charges brought against her in the Jaxton Ayers incident.  None were.  Then a high ranking officer badgered her with fighting words, and she headbutted him and broke his nose.

Listen to the recording and form your own opinion.

Bettina and her father watch as Deluca holds up his Iphone and presses play.  The police captain states his name, rank, badge number, and time and date.  “Cancer was too good for him”, then the sound of a scuffle and profligate swearing in the background, as the detectives read Lana her Miranda rights.  “What are you looking at?  Get me to a hospital”.  Deluca presses the button on his phone and shuts off the recording.  I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not worried about being disbarred.  Deluca comments, but I have a working knowledge of the law from going to night school with Ms. Radley.  As a concerned citizen, I’m asking the district attorney to drop the charge of assaulting a police officer against Ms. Radley, and that she be released on her own recognizance.   The police captain clearly spoke outside of his official capacity and with personal animus toward the man she regarded as her second father.  Let me remind you, that God’s command to honor your father and mother doesn’t stop when they die, only when you do.  Deluca walks over to his waiting Cadillac Escalade, and gets in the passenger seat.

What a mess, Tom mutters.  He looks over at his daughter.  Lana is so brave, Bettina says.  Her father shakes his head in disapproval.  If someone said that about mom, he’d have my claw marks on his face.  Bettina says.  Stay out of this, Bettina.  Lana is my best friend, daddy.  Will you bail her out?   Will you give notice and live here?  Bettina frowns and doesn’t answer.


She leapt across the desk and headbutted a police captain, Ramon tells Tia with obvious glee.  What a woman!  Tia frowns.  There is something wrong with her.  Raul says that she would have beaten the rockstar to death if he hadn’t come when he did and honk the horn of his car.  She is passionate, Ramon says with a grin.  I want to break her out of there.  I think she wants to be in there, Tia tells him.  Wait until the after the preliminary hearing.


Bettina’s father drops her off at the TV station after lunch, and several news crews scramble as she walks toward the main entrance.  Ms. Andrews, is your roommate a psychopath? She ignores the questions and goes inside.  She goes over to her desk and sees a post-it note on it from her editor.  My office.  She knocks on her door.  What’s up?  We do news, not opinion.  Got it, Bettina says, and turns to leave.  Hold up Bettina.  You’re the story now, her editor comments. Corporate sees this whole thing dragging out for a year or more and wants you gone amicably.  Are you firing me?  Of course not.  Our viewers love you, so does everyone here at the station.  Consider yourself on paid leave until this goes away or until you find something better.  You’re paying me to stay home?  No, I’m paying you to work on your resume, Bettina.  Get an agent and go national.  Can I at least do some human interest stories?  Bettina, her editor says, looking at her over the top of her spectacles, we’re taking your microphone and cameraman away from you.  Bettina’s head and shoulders slump.  You’re now our goodwill ambassador.  Bettina perks up.  Oh.  Alright.  Can I still have my expense account?  Within reason, her editor says, relieved that the hard part of the conversation is over.  Thank you.  The editor calls her boss and replays the conversation.  You did good, but keep a close eye on this expense account.


Bettina walks down to the merchandise aisle outside the news studio and picks out several t shirts as she waits for Raul to pick her up.  She puts it on the company credit card.

She smiles and makes a little wave to the cameras as she walks out with Raul to his car. Viewers see him get the door for her.  She’s got a Channel 5 Eyewitness news plastic shopping bag in her hand.

Where to?  He asks.  If you’d drop me off at my apartment.  How are you doing?  She asks him.  I had nothing to do with it, Bettina.  I believe you, she tells him, and pats his hand.  Tia called and asked me if I’d be willing to look at an old-drive in movie theater.  That she’d have the owner there with keys at dark. He cancelled on me the previous night, which gave me an alibi.  And was running late the night of.  Tia and Ramon thought of everything.

What happened?  She was kicking him when I pulled up.   I laid on the horn and she threw a bunch of photographs on his body and walked away without looking back.  I got him to St. Catherine’s as quick as I could.  I believe you.  What did you tell the police?  That his assailant ran off when I laid on the horn.  That it was serendipity that I came along at the right time.  The owner of the property corroborated my story.

How is he?  Still unconscious.  He’s got a lot of mending to do when he wakes up.

Have you talked to her?  She called me this morning.  She was calm and in control.  I asked her what happened and she told me “not over the phone”.  Just that Deluca was going to bring her in.  I told her to plead the 5th and to keep quiet until Jax wakes up, so the police can hunt down the blackmailers.  And that if she implicated herself, I’d trash his car with a baseball bat and tag his house with spray paint, and claim to be a co-conspirator.  What did she say to that?  She told me not to meddle with strife not belonging to me.  And that she loved me, and then she hung up.

She would have walked if she hadn’t gone after that police captain.  He’s a family friend, Raul.  He and my dad golf together. What are you going to do now?  The station took my cameraman and microphone away.  I’m on paid leave; they’re paying me to work on my resume.

You said blackmail, Raul mentions.  That’s the angle that the band and his parents are going to explore in the media.  That he was roofied and then compromised, like what the Syndicate did to Toni.  Did they roofie him?  I haven’t asked for details, Bettina.  It’s within the realm of possibility.

What are you going to do?  Bettina asks Raul as he pulls up to the curb.  If she wants out, all she has to do is say the word.  Raul tells Bettina.  But Ramon will scorch the earth so she can never come back to the States, do you understand?  Bettina nods.  I do not want to see any of the band.  Please pass that along.  But if there is anything that I can do for her or her parents, you have only to let me know.  Cameras gather around the car, as Bettina thanks Raul for the ride, and gets out with her shopping bag.

Bettina, what’s going on with your roommate?  Hello, my name is Bettina Andrews. I’m a reporter for Channel Five Eyewitness news.  If you want to know the latest, we’ll have it first.  Pick up the remote and turn to Channel Five.  And she grins and waves to the cameras.  The clip of the club owner dropping her off and her shameless plug for her little station goes national.  Corporate calls back the editor.  Never mind about the expense account. It’s wide open.

That evening, Toni shows up in her Volvo, and Bettina comes downstairs wearing a Channel Five Eyewitness News long sleeve shirt.  This is my girlfriend Toni, she tells the press, as she picks up a suitcase with both hands.  My dad asked her to stay with me.  She’s NOPD and works with the FBI.  Best job ever, Toni says as she pulls out Simon’s Mark 12 from the backseat and slings up, and then rotates the weapon behind her back, muzzle down, so she has her hands free.  She grabs her laptop and backpack.  And closes the door and presses the fob to lock the car.

What do you think about your captain being attacked by Lana Radley? Are you with Channel Five Eyewitness news?  Toni asks the reporter.  Who doesn’t reply.  Bettina gives Toni a nod of approval.  Turn around.  Toni does.  Where are your back up iron sights?  Bettina asks.  On my handgun, Toni replies.  What do you have in here?  Viewers hear Bettina ask Toni as she lugs the suitcase.  My plates, some ammo, and few extra mags.


You lost the bet, Sam tell Simon, who is grinning widely at the screen.  I don’t care.  It was worth it.


She knows her shit, one of the patrons at the VFW says, as they watch the girls go into the apartment building.  Suitcase filled with mags, ammo, and ballistic plates.  Damn, that’s hot.  Tim thinks.  I bet the boss gave her the rifle when they were together.  Aint nobody going to be stupid enough to mess with those girls, the bartender says.  They won’t call the cops; they’ll call a hearse.  The veterans gathered around the bar laugh grimly.  You want another?  The bartender asks Tim.  No, I’m good.  Let’s settle up.  On the house, he says, noticing Tim’s worn Carhartt jacket.  Much obliged.  Tim responds.  82nd is a fine outfit, the man next to him says, why did you leave before you had your twenty in?  So I can have more time to hunt.  The men nod in agreement. You looking for work?  One of the men asks Tim.  I got a job driving forklift at a warehouse, he replies.

Half an hour later, he stops by Kostamo’s office and knocks on the door.  Come in.  Did you give Toni a Mark 12?  Kostamo shakes his head no.  It was on the news.  She’s staying at Bettina’s now.  She pulled one out of her back seat and slung up like an operator.  Bettina asked her where her backup irons were and she said on her handgun.  Kostamo grins.  What’s the latest on Lana? Tim asks.

The mayor says that the police captain won’t drop the charges.  So she’s stuck inside until the preliminary hearing.  Want me to go Bubba?  The guys down at the VFW are looking for some action.  What is the objective?   Sleep deprivation.  Interrupt his OODA loop.  Hold off for now.  Let’s see if the ACLU gets the department to back down.  How is she doing?  She’s not receiving any visitors.