/ Sunday, November 12th, 2006 /
Despite the sun coming over his closed eyes through the slot in the window shade, Aiden remains in bed, sleeping through the morning until the moment a knocking originates from the apartment door. Eyelids forcing themselves open, Aiden looks toward the still-closed bedroom door and waits for another sound, listening for a set of footsteps trailing through the flat, taking themselves to the front door.
Following the answer, there is a silence, no words spoken and no audible moves made until his bedroom is entered, jolting him out of his sleep. “Dude” Shane says, Aiden pulling his head back at the sight of the panicked man, only able to muster curiosity in the form of a “what?”
Pulled out of his sleep, Aiden groggily steps down the hall and into the kitchen, noticing Shane stood over the countertop with a look of fear in his eyes. “What’s going on?” Aiden asks again, not having received an answer the first time around, a look of worry the only response given by Shane, his eyes latching onto his roommate as if to ask how to solve a problem Aiden is still yet to be made aware of.
Shaking his head in frustration, Aiden walks around the kitchen’s island to notice dozens of photographs, all spread out on their marble-finished counter. Suddenly, the shocked look on Shane’s face is duplicated in Aiden’s, the tiredness suddenly having faded in favour of an astonished glance. Quickly realizing this problem to not be one he alone can solve, Aiden marches for the phone and dials the number, pressing the headset to his ear.
“Hey, Sam? This is Aiden” the man greets, Shane silently watching as his roommate attempts to figure out their next steps, “we’ve got an issue with Kelsi and Shane.”
“Well we all knew this was gonna happen” Grant says, Aiden’s apartment having become crowded with guests all in their Sunday clothing, pajamas and casual attires in every direction. “Still, I don’t see the point of the pictures” Taylor explains, “if she wants to exploit you, why would she hold these pictures over your head?”
“So she can show his girlfriend at a later date” Vickers replies, the suggestion immediately brushed off by Taylor, both as too obvious and too faulty. “All we really need to do is tell Olivia the actual story behind the photos, and they immediately mean nothing” Taylor explains, her suggestion giving Grant a more plausible solution. “Perhaps she’s trying to show us that she could if she wanted to” Grant explains, “the only way for her to hold power is to keep us thinking she does.”
“Even then, all of this was for nothing” Aiden remarks, “she just wasted all of this to… What? Prove a point? She knows we still wont stop coming after her.” Shrugging, Grant takes a seat on the sofa, staring toward the blank wall in his opposite direction whilst the small community begins running over ways to solve the problem at hand. “Call Olivia over so we can get ahead of this” Taylor begins, “but first, let’s send someone down to look after her.”
“That’ll blow our cover!” Shane explains, Grant quickly reminds the man that interacting with her blew their cover a few short days ago. “At this point, the only thing that’s important is to take away any leverage she has” Taylor furthers, “the moment she runs out of things to use against us is when she loses whatever power she has.”
“She’s got all the power she needs already” Aiden replies, his eyes trailing away from Taylor, his pupils now fixated on Grant, the rest of the group following along. “She’s already dug well into my head- he’s right” Grant responds without needing to turn his face, already having assumed all eyes to have been placed upon him, “I still know what I did and she knows that’s good enough- this is just a warning to anyone that’s looking to challenge her.”
“Even then, the only power she has is power over you” Vickers explains, “so if that’s all she has to bank on- we’ll take it away.”
Faces turning toward Vickers, the group awaits an explanation as the man approaches Grant, taking a seat on the coffee table in front of his secondary anchor. “We’re going to take you off TV” Vickers states, Taylor immediately voicing her opinion against such an action. “It’s the only move we have at this point” Vickers replies, “if she wants him to slowly damage his trust with the public, she’ll be hopeless in her attempts without the platform to do it.”
“Even then, you’re sacrificing his relevance now for his integrity later” Taylor explains, Aiden quick to add on the factor of ratings. “He’s the hottest anchor on television right now and he’s pulling in nearly eight million people each night” Aiden explains, “people may think he leans left a bit, but he’s still quickly overcoming every other draw in the country!”
“Then we suffer the dip in the ratings” Vickers explains, his eyes peering toward Carly, the woman standing silently in the corner of the room. “Starting tomorrow night, Carly is taking over for Grant on ‘Tonight at Nine’ in lieu of a sudden illness” Vickers explains, “this illness will continue until the moment we nip this Kelsi problem in the bud.”
“I still fail to see how this isn’t going to hurt us” Aiden replies, Vickers implying the opposite of what he’d like to hear. “It is going to hurt us- but it’s going to help us put Kelsi away in the long run” Vickers explains, “and right now, I’d rather take a loss and bring back my anchor-two than have him slowly wither on national television every night.”
“Do you really think Kelsi is just gonna sit back and take that?” Carly questions, appreciating the new role she’s been given, but hesitant to believe someone is fixated on revenge as Kelsi would just let it happen. “She’ll come back and do worse than this… Especially if all this is just meant as a warning shot” Carly argues, a point Taylor fails to see an argument to.
“People like Kelsi specialize in one thing before any other- leverage” Taylor confirms, “she’s a reporter. If she has something worth publishing, she puts it out. If someone doesn’t like what she’s publishing about them, she uses it to get something worth publishing about someone else.”
“This isn’t even mentioning what she might already have against Grant in preparation for something like this” Shane explains, Aiden tacking onto the man’s point with his own. “Not to mention, Kelsi could just ride this ‘illness’ tagline out for months!” Aiden continues, “even if she doesn’t force him back into the camera’s view, she’ll hold him off until people start questioning why he’s gone for so long, or keep him off for enough time that people forget about him.”
“People move on quickly, there’s no reason to suggest the same won't be true for Grant” Carly tacks on, “if you’re not an attractive woman or a cause for controversy, people get over you- it happens.” Considering his options, Vickers scans the room until Grant breaks his silence, voicing his support for the side presented opposite Vickers. “They know how these trends work because it always goes down like this” Grant murmurs, “one way or another, Kelsi will make me suffer.”
His eyes now looking back toward Vickers, Grant awaits a decision, knowing the stance by both sides to have been made, the final call coming down to Vickers himself. Weighing the choices, their benefits and consequences, and proceeding further down the rabbit hole, Vickers finds the confidence to voice his conclusion, a polarizing one to suggest the least.
“We’re taking him off the air” Vickers replies, “if it comes down to it, we promote the hell out of him when he comes back, and we try to raise Carly’s stock in the meantime.” Tapping his palms against his knees, Vickers stands to his feet and walks for the door, not willing to hear anything else as the rest of the crew just stands there, some eyes on Vickers, others placed upon Grant, who seems to be content with the decision made.
= Tonight at 9 is created by Zachary Serra, all rights to the series belong to Zachary Serra and the entity of Pacer1 Media from the start of Season 1 onwards =
“You’ve got a nice place” Taylor exclaims, following Grant into the man’s outer-city home, “it’s much cozier than I remember it being.” Shrugging his shoulders, Grant recalls the sights of New York City by memory, explaining that he doesn’t need to look at them every night when he comes home the way he does each day when he’s in the office.
“There’s a time and a place for the city, and when I’m home, I want to go without the towering skyscrapers every second” Grant explains, “some people like it, but I’m not one to care for it much.”
With a nod, Taylor walks around the interior, her eyes appreciating every knick knack that lines the walls, finding them to all be very much similar to what she would have expected Grant to own. “Did you expect all of this?” Grant inquires, pulling two beers from the fridge, rummaging through his cabinets for a bottle opener. “Actually, I sort of did” Taylor replies, surprising Grant, “I’d have expected less decor, but I would have expected something cozy like this.”
“Something cozy?” Grant wonders aloud, “like restrictive in a good way or warm in temperature?” With a smirk, Taylor turns away from the wall as Grant offers her one of the bottles, “both” she replies, graciously accepting the drink. “It’s different to what I see at the office” Grant admits, “it’s almost the exact opposite- which is kind of necessary in our line of work.”
With a chuckle, Taylor takes another swig of her drink, eyes moving from one side of the room to the other, finding a joy to take away from the setup. “You should see my place- it’s nothing like any of this” Taylor replies, “and I guess that’s why I like it so much.”
Puckering his lips, Grant nods to himself, catching the woman by surprise when he suggests he may take her up on the offer. “Y’know, I show you my place, you show me yours kind of thing?” Grant clarifies, “Maybe I’d find as much personality in your place as you seem to find in mine.”
“Here’s to hoping” Taylor responds, holding the rim of her glass toward Grant, the man returning the gesture before taking another drink. “I do have a few things that seem less homie and more ‘luxury’, if you’d care for that?” Grant continues, nudging his head toward the hallway at the back of his home, a warm orange tint to the corridor leading through a set of wooden stairs that trailing to the basement.
“I have it beneath my house so I have to go out of my way to see it” Grant explains, “but even if it might seem a little ‘big city’, I do like to just walk around a little bit.” With a nod, Taylor watches Grant walk off, following behind the man as he makes for the staircase, a cozy oak door at the bottom maintained beyond the limestone rocks.
With a creaking, the door slides open to reveal a massive room encased in concrete, shelves upon shelves lined from one side of the room to another, some covered in glass, others left to room temperature. “This is my wine cellar” Grant reveals, his arms held out at his sides to illustrate how ominously massive it is. “When I finished college, I had a few friends come over and hang out by the firepit” Grant explains, “every new addition to the group had to face an initiation.”
“An initiation, college boy?” Taylor jokes, Grant smiling as he nods, accepting defeat in being returned to his early years. “The initiation was that they’d be locked in with a note until they found the exact bottle and brand that was written on the paper” Grant explained, “every single person would be given a nickname, and every nickname went with a symbol- find the right bottle, and you’d see your symbol right over the year printed.”
Figuring out where this leads after already having walked into the middle of the cellar, Taylor turns around with a smirk, watching Grant close the door behind them, locking it. “Usually they’re told to do it on their own, but I figured I’d watch over this time” Grant concludes with grace, “also to make sure your beer-loving self didn’t get lost in this overpriced doomsday bunker.”
His hands held behind his back, Grant folds his fingers together to lock them behind, head nodding toward the woman, a note left atop the stand beside one of the shelves. “1945 Romanee-Conti?” Taylor reads aloud in a tone similar to that of asking a question, “why that bottle?”
With a smile and a shrug, Grant informs her that he can’t say any more until the bottle is found. “The rules of the game are simple, when you find the bottle, you’ll know why it’s your bottle” Grant explains, “the task is yours to complete, Oak.” Turning back toward the man, Taylor looks at him with her eyebrows furrowed, eyes squinted as he vows to clarify the nickname once the game concludes.
Nodding to herself, Taylor glances back toward the collection of shelves and figures out where to look first, Grant walking up to her side and promising to follow wherever she chooses. “If you say so” Taylor remarks, walking off as Grant is quick to follow, her eyes surveying the collection, reading each bottle up and down as the massive bunker awaits it’s inspection.”
“I’ve got to go lie down” Shane says, leaving the kitchen and returning for his room, Aiden quietly trying to plead for him to stay to no avail. Now left without his roommate, Aiden stands in the kitchen alone, looking into the living room to notice the only other person still inside his home, Carly left to sit on the couch, looking at him with a wave.
“How’ve you been?” Aiden asks, figuring a conversation was bound to spring up eventually, taking his moment to be responsible for starting it. “A lot of being ignored by Juno” Carly replies, “he’s kind of blaming me for the whole ‘tried to attack a co-worker’ thing.” Turning his eyes away, Aiden looks to the corner of the room as Carly takes notice, the woman immediately questioning the man’s visual response.
“I was just looking away, that’s all” Aiden replies, an answer that Carly is not satisfied with, immediately challenging what Aiden believes. “Do you think it’s my fault?” Carly inquires, Aiden left to take a seat across the room from the woman, his hands held up, admitting that he wants to have no part in this discussion. “This is a conversation for you to have with your boyfriend, not me” Aiden explains, “if anything, I was just the person Juno got himself in trouble for attacking.”
“He didn’t attack you for no reason” Carly replies, “he’s convinced we’ve been hooking up, that’s enough reason for you to be involved in this.” Before answering, Aiden notices something said in the last line that sticks out to him, attacking it repeatedly. “Are you saying you’re not convinced that we did?” Aiden wonders aloud, Carly left to stumble over her words, her inability to give a precise answer prodded at by the apartment’s resident.
“You’re trying to convince yourself that we didn’t, aren’t you?” Aiden continues, Carly refusing such a notion, taking a tone, however, that leaves Aiden to take her answer as untrue. “I’m going to ask you this again- do you think we had sex?” Aiden clarifies, the answer already clear, though the woman’s attempt to explain the in detail leaving room for Aiden’s theory to find validation.
“This isn’t a question that needs any more explanation than a ‘yes’ or a ‘no” Aiden continues, “so I’ll ask you again- did we have sex? Just give me a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’!” Her hands placed beside her head, Carly gives into the man’s request, offering a simple answer.
“Yes” Carly replies, watching Aiden’s face turn into a disrespected smile before inquiring for the reason. “You don’t wanna believe you cheated on your boyfriend” Aiden remarks, “you wanna convince yourself that you did nothing wrong.”
“Do I not have a reason to want to think that?” Carly questions, surprised at the ease in which Aiden answers. “You don’t have a reason to want that!” Aiden replies, “you cheated on your boyfriend- you don’t get to convince yourself you didn’t!” Watching Aiden stand up to leave the room, Carly follows after him, tailing him into the foyer and stopping him from walking through the door, pressing her back against the cold metal in an act of defiance.
“If I don’t get to think I cheated on my boyfriend, you don’t get to think you have no responsibility in this!” Carly explains, immediately noticing her words to have gotten to the man. A wide smile on his face, Aiden laughs at the suggestion, “is that right?” the man inquires, walking back into the home as Carly assures him of the validity to her claims.
“I may have cheated on Juno, but I cheated on Juno with you” Carly furthers, “so if we’re tracing the blame for Juno’s actions, it falls on both you and me!” Nodding to himself, Aiden repeats Carly’s statement in his own words, taking back the seat he had just left seconds prior. “Yes, because I- the victim- am also the perpetrator” Aiden dissects, “that makes all the sense in the world.”
“It does to someone that thinks rationally” Carly replies, Aiden immediately making a quip about where to find such a rational thinker. The argument dying off, Aiden stands from his seat and looks toward Carly, both parties silently looking at each other with a mixture of anger and confusion, unsure of where this goes from here. “Is there something I’m missing?” Shane asks, having returned to the room to find both inhabitants staring at each other in a rather strange way.
“No, Shane” Carly replies, picking up her bag and throwing a scarf over her neck, “you didn’t miss anything.” Walking away from the man, Carly storms out of the apartment, leaving Aiden stood where he already was, Shane looking at him in disappointment. “Go after her, you fool” Shane orders, watching Aiden look back at him, confused. “You heard me” Shane replies, repeating his words as Aiden remains standing there.
With a deep breath, Aiden does as he’s told, marching through the foyer and exiting the apartment, Shane left standing in the middle of the empty room- alone.
“Josh, this is Sam Vickers” the man introduces, phone pressed against his ear, “if you get this, check your email. There will be a car and a note in the glove box waiting for me if something bad happens.” Abruptly ending the call, Vickers returns the phone to his pocket before exiting his vehicle, expensive shoes ruffling the gravel beneath his feet as his car door slams, his stride taking him to the motel patio.
Confident, the man approaches the door with his fist in the air, knuckles tapping against the cold metal before him. “It’s about” Kelsi begins saying from the other end, answering the door to find herself confused by the visitor awaiting her response. “I’ll finish that thought for you” Vickers interrupts, “It’s about time we had ourselves a productive conversation.”
With a smile, Vickers places his hand against the door and lets himself in, Kelsi gingerly closing the entrance behind the man as he begins to point out her change in attitude. “You seemed a lot more confident when you drugged and framed one of my producers, Ms. Dolin” Vickers begins, turning his head toward the woman at the front of the room, “is it the lack of your partner that’s got you less like a vengeful queen and more of a damsel in distress?”
“What’re you doing here?” Kelsi wonders aloud, “more importantly why the fuck are you here?” With a smirk, Vickers takes a half-empty glass of vodka to his lips and downs what remains, assuring the woman that he isn’t here to cause her any harm. “From what it sounds like you pulled with Howard, please indulge me if I don’t believe much of what you say” Kelsi replies, “so what is the purpose of this visit?”
Making himself at home, Vickers utilizes everything he has of illustrating confidence by taking a seat in the same chair that Kelsi had the night she confronted the group. “I’m here to trade you a story since that’s what you’re here for” Vickers replies, watching the expression on the woman’s face begin to shift, eyes narrowing and posture altering.
“Let’s talk then” Kelsi replies, locking the motel door and returning to the middle of the room, taking a seat opposite the man and pouring him another glass.
“Why do all wine bottles look alike?” Taylor wonders aloud, Grant taking amusement at how far off she’s going. “Because you’re a New York girl” Grant replies, “you care more that your booze is worth the twenty bucks a small glass of it costs.” With a laugh, Taylor admits to the truth in the man’s statement, sympathizing for the pain her wallet has felt over past years.
“If I’m going to wake up with a headache, it better have been worth it” Taylor quips. With a shrug, Grant admits that it was easy to notice with the attitude she first gave him. “You understand confidence and standard” Grant explains, “you take control when you have to, which many women don’t do as often as men. In other words, you were destined to prefer beer to wine.”
“I wouldn’t say I was destined to do anything of the sort, sir” Taylor remarks, turning every bottle she comes across label-side up. “What were you destined to do then?” Grant questions, watching the woman smirk at every bottle she comes across, “I guess I was destined to do this” the woman jokes halfway through, scanning around the corridor before noticing something that catches her eye.
“You don’t come down here all that often to just look around, do you?” Taylor asks, Grant quick to confirm her suspicions, a response that puts a smile on the woman’s face. Disregarding every bottle she walks by after that answer, Taylor stares into the glass cover to one shelf in particular, the dust particles found on the rest of the shelves not found upon this one, a set of fingerprints smoothly left embedded into the dusty coverage.
Sliding the glass aside, Taylor reaches in to take the bottle from its home, Grant’s head hanging with a smile the moment he recognizes the game to be over. Turning the label toward her face, Taylor reads the brand and year aloud, finally looking to the neck of the bottle where a sticker waits for her eyes. “A crossed-out dollar sign?” Taylor asks, looking back to her chaperone, reminding him that she’s now owed an explanation.
“The crossed-out dollar sign is another way of saying ‘priceless’” Grant explains, “other words for it can be ‘non-purchasable’, ‘invaluable’, or another set of words that I like a lot more.” Squinting toward the man before looking back to the bottle, Taylor awaits Grant’s response, their eyes locking as the tension builds. “One of A Kind” Grant finally reveals, the woman taking a moment to think about the words spoken before a smile fills her face.
“O.A.K” Taylor quips, looking back to Grant for confirmation, the man smiling with another nod. “Other than priceless, a ‘45 Romanee-Conti- deemed by many as priceless- and ‘One of a Kind’ to others…” Grant continues, walking up to the woman and meeting her eyes with his own, “...just like you.”
Reaching down, Grant takes the bottle from Taylor’s hand, gently placing it on the floor before reaching back up, his hands caressing each side of her face. “You deserve the best” Grant whispers, losing control of his face as Taylor takes his neck in her hands. “I already have it” Taylor responds, their eyes refusing to leave each other, having already fixated on what they believe the other to be.
Throwing himself out of the entry to the apartment, Aiden looks toward each side of the sidewalk before noticing Carly, running after the woman and pulling her back. “What the hell are you doing!?” Carly shouts, having wanted to leave their argument behind, believing Aiden to now be running after her in an effort to continue it. “I’m sorry” Aiden replies, catching the woman by surprise, Carly left looking at him, flustered.
“What do you mean?” Carly asks, Aiden clarifying his stance. “We both made this mess, and we both deserve to deal with it together… Not apart” Aiden explains, “I refuse to let either of us believe anything else.” In the moment, Carly loses the worries she sported less than two minutes ago, something deep inside of her taking relief in not being alone in whatever comes next.
“Thank you” Carly replies, the pair looking into each other’s eyes until Aiden’s phone begins to buzz, capturing the attention of both parties. “It’s Sam” Aiden exclaims as he pulls the phone from his jacket pocket, flipping the device open and placing it on speaker. “What’s up, Sam?” Aiden wonders aloud, the man on the other end telling him to listen closely.
“We’ve got a much bigger issue on our hands than we realized” Vickers explains, staring at the patio intently, a rush of anger coming over him as his hand rests against the doorknob. “I need you to call everyone and let them know that Kelsi isn’t the only one behind all of this” Vickers remarks, his eyes frozen upon Howard, who stands on the patio staring angrily back at Vickers.
“Howard Nalty is in on Kelsi’s scheme- and they have a lot more than we know how to counteract” Vickers concludes, “tell them to be here in thirty minutes or less.” The information sending them into overdrive, Aiden and Carly race back into the apartment to let Shane know, Aiden dialing Grant’s phone number as he ascends the conquering staircase.
The room dark, only illuminated by the moonlight, Grant’s phone suddenly begins to buzz, the small screen light blasting a quarter of the room with a faint, white glow. Atop his own shirt and Taylor’s bra, the phone remains buzzing atop the man’s dresser, both those in the room unable to answer the call, its light fading without a response, simply left to silently ring as it pleases.
== Tonight at 9 ==