"Ida. Ida, he's here!"
Will's voice on the phone was frantic. Ida stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, her bag slung over one arm, and the flow of impatient pedestrians adjusted itself around her.
"Who, Will? Who's there?"
"Leo Bolt. He's going to kill me."
The blood drained from Ida's face. "Oh God. How? I thought he was -"
"The breakout was on the news just now. He killed a nurse and put an orderly in the hospital. And now -" Will's voice dropped to a whisper - "now he's here. For me."
"I'm coming." Ida began walking again, her leisurely shopping pace exchanged for a brisk purposeful stride. "Hang up and call the police."
"No! Ida, no, don't come here. There isn't time. Please. Call Maria. Get help. Anything. But don't come here."
"Are you in the safe room?" Her vision blurred with tears.
"Yes. Please call Maria. Please." His voice broke. "Oh, God, Ida. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
The line went dead. "Will? Will, are you there? Will!"
The phone still pressed to her ear, Ida began to run.
"How the hell did this happen?" Maria snapped. "Everything was supposed to be taken care of."
Ida sat in the passenger seat of Maria's black jeep, shivering in spite of the summer heat. Will's last words replayed over and over in her mind. "What could he possibly be sorry for?"
"Being an idiot?" Maria glowered. "I'm sorry, Ms. Grant, but if I've told him once... He ought to have told me he was going to the country house. He shouldn't be traveling alone."
"It's just so... Why is this happening?"
"Bolt is a lunatic. I wish..." Maria sighed, tightening her grip on the steering wheel as the vehicle bounced off the main road and onto the village track.
"You can't blame yourself," said Ida.
The younger woman pressed her lips together and scowled.
At last they approached the cabin. In the drive two more black Jeeps had been hastily abandoned. Maria pulled up alongside the nearer one and leaped out, leaving the engine running. Ida scrambled after her.
"Report," Maria barked to the muscular young black man emerging from the cabin's front door.
"Empty. Signs of a struggle." He glanced at Ida. "No blood though. Tire marks just there." He pointed at the edge of the drive, where a vehicle had left the pavement executing a wide turn. "Jake went after them on the motorbike. They can't be far."
"Who else is on site?"
"Mick and Priya are checking the rest of the house. Nan is coordinating with local law enforcement. I called for a chopper already." He gave Ida another uncomfortable look. "Should be all in hand within the hour."
"Thank you, Art," Maria muttered.
Ida bent to peer at the tire marks in the dirt. It had rained much of the previous night, and the earth was soft. The print was sharp and clear. Brand new, off-road tires. A heavy vehicle. As she moved toward the house she saw another mark, the scuffed imprint of a bare foot. Tears stung her eyes. Her big brother had always taken care of her when they were children; now he was the vulnerable one.
Fame had come early for William James Scott. His cherubic charm had earned him attention and accolades from the time he could talk. He loved to act out scenes from his favorite films and television shows, and always captured each nuance of emotion. He'd won his first role as leading man at the tender age of seventeen. After that, drama school, more and bigger roles, wider acclaim, finally an international fanbase. Now, at nearly fifty-five, he had lost none of his looks, none of his charm, none of his legions of admirers.
But to Ida, seven years his junior, he'd only ever been her Will. His first performances had been for her exclusive entertainment: both parents worked, so as young as ten her brother was solely responsible for her. For her it had been a wonderful time. As they grew up, she remained his first and most loyal fan, attending every play no matter how small the stage, every film no matter how rickety the movie house. As his fame grew, he continued to include her, providing exclusive invitations and backstage passes. It was at one of these events that Ida, then just twenty-one, met the man who would be her husband. Jamie Grant swept young Ida off her feet and away to America. Though she and Will remained in touch, the distance between them grew with the miles from London to Monterey.
Thus she was away when the troubles began.
The house was the one they'd grown up in. It still smelled to Ida of her mother's lavender, her father's clandestine tobacco. After their father's death - Mother had gone years before - Will had made over the house into a private retreat. Miles from anything, it still lacked broadband and cellular service, and the neighbors were discreet.
Or they had been.
After the first incident, Maria had supervised the installation of a safe room in the cellar of the house. Fireproof, with running water, telephone, and a six-week supply of canned goods. Will joked about it, called it his tornado shelter, waved off Maria's lectures; still the room remained, unused but ready.
Ida surveyed the wreckage of the door. "Did he have a bomb?"
Maria studied the twisted hinges, the split wood of the frame. "A small quantity of explosive," she said. "The kind they use for mining. Not hard to get, even if you are escaped from a mental institution." She snorted. "He must have planned this long ago."
"Why do you say that?"
"The breakout was less than twelve hours ago. He came here very well prepared."
"Why?" Tears spilled down Ida's cheeks.
Maria sighed. "Who knows why lunatics do anything?"
The two stood in silence for a long moment. Then Maria retreated heavily up the stairs; Ida stood, staring blindly into the empty room as tears flowed like water to the floor.
Leo Bolt was a young actor who had yet to catch his big break. He played a minor recurring role on the long-running series in which Will had the lead. A fan of Will's since childhood, Leo followed him everywhere, fawning over him like a schoolgirl with a crush. Annoying, Will joked to Ida on the phone, but harmless. Flattering, even. Will included Leo in large gatherings, but declined to make him a personal friend.
Then Jenna had appeared. Elfin, dainty, and alluring, she played the girl-of-the-week opposite Will's hero for one two-episode arc. The story was intense, action-packed, and emotional, and the two leads spent nearly every moment together throughout the four-week shoot. By the end of it they were engaged, and soon after they were married.
Leo Bolt took it personally. He too had admired Jenna, but been soundly rejected. He found himself suddenly excluded from Will's life, as nearly everyone but Jenna had been in the early months of their relationship. He grew obsessed, degrading the couple in the press, growing difficult at work until finally he was written out of the show. He found out where Jenna lived - having a large family and not much celebrity at the time, she was not well hidden - and began to stalk the pair wherever they went. It ended with a drawn knife in an alley behind the theater where Jenna was rehearsing a new play: Will was injured, and Leo put away for life.
Only then was the true extent of his rage uncovered. Elaborate murder plots prepared, reams of threatening letters unsent, photos of Will and Jenna and maps of their homes and workplaces pinned to every wall of Leo's tiny apartment. Will withdrew, taking leave from his job and traveling alone outside the country for many long weeks, Jenna having declined to accompany him. When he returned, the months-old marriage was over, and the two slowly reverted to the people they had been before.
All that was years ago. Ida had only learned the full story recently, returning home at Will's invitation after her husband's death that spring. She had met Jenna once, briefly, and never heard the name of Leo Bolt until she'd arrived at Will's London penthouse and met Maria the bodyguard.
Now she wished she never had.
"Ida! Ida, gotta go! You okay here by yourself?"
Ida took the stairs up two at a time. "No way," she told Maria. "I'm coming with you."