In Too Deep - Ch 30-34

Chapter Thirty

As she put the phone down, Dana took a few moments to breathe. Things seemed to be happening so fast. Her life felt like a roller coaster and all she could see were dangerous curves, steep drops, and agonizing climbs ahead. How had she let it get this far? Why had she let her own dark desires take control of her life?

She undressed in silence, watching her feminized husband as he slept. She placed her clothing in the dry cleaning bag and her lingerie in the clothes hamper before removing her make-up. After applying moisturizer, she stepped into the bathroom and sat on the toilet lid with her head in her hands.

She loved Sloan, totally and completely. The feelings that she had toward the Sharps were a different thing completely. It wasn't love, but it was a burning desire that she could not control. What to do?

She stifled a sob as she reached a decision. She knew that she had to be totally honest with her husband. She had to unmask that dark insidious creature that gripped her soul. She had to look into his eyes and let him know the depths of her betrayal. She realized that she would probably lose her husband over this, what husband could ever love something as vile as the real Dana Midkiff, but he had the right to know. She had selfishly made decisions for Sloan's own good while knowing that she was actually doing was indulging her own dark desires.

As she struggled to stifle the sound of her sobs, she almost had a heart attack at the knock, then the voice that accompanied the opening door.

"Baby? What's wrong?"

Looking up into Sloan's eyes, she openly wept, chest heaving, as Sloan enveloped her in his arms, their small breasts crushing against each other.

"Sloan...I...I' sorry...."

He stiffened only slightly as his mind jumped to the most obvious conclusion. 'Did she have sex with Matt Sharp?' He felt immediately aroused and repulsed, both at the same time. He pulled back far enough to meet her eyes with his own.

"Tell me what happened."

"I...I have...betrayed you...betrayed us."

"With whom?" His tone was so calm, yet his eyes bored into hers.


"Who was it? Matt Sharp? Gabriel Vargas?"

She shook her head as his words forced her to focus.

"Sloan, what are you talking about?"

"What are you talking about?"

Her eyes lit with sudden understanding. "Oh My think I slept with them?"

It was Sloan's turn to look confused. " said..."

"I'm sorry, baby. I haven't slept with anyone else....yet."

The qualifying remark hit him like a punch to the gut. "Yet?"

"Ok baby, let me say what I need to tell you, okay? After I am finished, you can...well...the rest will be up to you."

She lead him into their small living room and sat him on the couch while she sat in a small dinette chair across from him. He had tried to convince her to sit beside him, but she felt the need for space. After a few moments hesitation, she began to speak.

"You know that my father died when I was a kid, and we had a rough time getting by....."

She proceeded to lay herself bare for the first time in her life. She shared the way Rich Midkiff ingratiated himself into her family. How he played the doting daddy in public but had a dark secret behind closed doors. Dana explained the way he began to abuse her. It started with little things like a lingering touch, eye contact, a special treat, or praise. Things that could easily be dismissed as the appropriate interaction between a parent and child.

As time passed, those little things became more aggressive, tickling, rough horseplay, accidentally brushing hands on her budding nipples.

Never anything that could be pointed to as 'crossing a line,' but they made her uncomfortable.

Dana's mother worked as a dental technician and Rich had a job installing security systems for cars, homes, and businesses. While her hours were set in stone, his hours offered a lot more flexibility. She vividly recalled the first time he sexually assaulted her.

-She was 13, and school was for the summer. Summers in Texas can be brutal. About mid-morning, the home a/c went out. She had called her mom, who had then called Rich. He had some free time between installations and said he would check it out and call a repair tech if it was something bigger than he could deal with. When he got to the house, Dana was sweltering in front of a fan, listening to her iPod, and wearing nothing but a mini tee and short shorts.

She didn't know how long he had been there, staring at her, but she almost jumped out of her skin when she saw her step-father standing in the kitchen doorway with a frightening look in his eyes. -

She shared with her husband how he had accused her of dressing like a slut, and parading around nearly naked. He had forced her over his knee and spanked her...hard. By the time he finished, she was crying, but she was also humiliated by the wet response between her thighs.

Before she knew what he was doing, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her, forcing his tongue into her mouth as he fondled her. When it was over, he blamed her. He accused her of being a slut and flaunting herself at him. He told her that if she ever said a word to anyone, he would kill her and her mother.

From this began almost five years of systematic abuse, during which she became a semi-voluntary participant. She would argue that she was being coerced, but he would constantly point out the little things that she felt compelled to do as if she were choosing to do them. For example, if he took his cock out, she would fall to her knees and start licking the tip, knowing that she would be physically forced to do it if she hesitated, he would mention that only a true cock loving slut would suck it that well.

As the years went by, she began to create a duality within herself. One Dana was immersed in school to the exclusion of anything but theater. The other Dana was a slut who grew more and more passionate about the things he did to her and rationalizing the physical pleasure by saying she had no choice, all the while knowing in her heart that she liked it.

She had to confess that her relationship with Rich Midkiff had fostered a deep-seated animosity toward men. This had forced her to withdraw even further, socially. All the while, she had tried to suppress this side of herself, the dark and ugly side, when she got to college. She had met Sloan and for the first time, she met a man that she could feel safe and loved with. A man who gave out of love rather than feeding his own lusts.

She sobbed out her unworthiness and held him back when he tried to offer comfort.

"Please, Sloan....there is more."

She then told him of her manipulation by Danielle Sharp. How she had been coerced into helping Danielle feminize Sloan. How she had realized their agenda but had rationalized her participation by saying she was just helping her husband reach his dream. She finally confessed to Sloan how her judgment had been clouded by her eager excitement at the prospect of being used by the alpha couple.

"So...are you saying that you want a..." he paused, rephrasing his question.

"What exactly are you saying, Dana Are you leaving me?"

"Sloan, I love you. I know in the depths of my heart that I do, but I also know in my heart that there is something about them that....that calls to that dark ugly thing inside of me."

"Is there anything else you need to say to me? Any other dark hidden secrets?"

She hung her head, and whispered, "No baby, I just am so sorry."

He stood and reached out, drawing her to her feet before wrapping her in his warm embrace.

"We all have secrets, baby. Maybe it's time for me to tell you mine."

Chapter Thirty-One

"Thank you, very much. I am sure that we will both benefit from this. However, let me reassure that the value of doing business with me is much smaller than the detriment of crossing me. It would be..." he paused for effect, "...unfortunate if you or one of your associates were to burn me on this."

He listened for a few moments.

"Yes, I agree, but I like to have clarity in all of my business dealings."

He ended the call without further comment and considered whether or not to make a call of his own, finally deciding to give the matter some consideration, first.

Thomas Dern placed the phone back on its cradle and gazed idly into the middle distance, deep in thought. The information had cost him a pretty penny, and there was no way to guarantee that another source might not leak it to the press before he accomplished anything. So how could he use this information to his advantage?

There were several things that needed his consideration. Once the story broke, this Sloan Taylor person was going to be big news. If that news broke, Brandin's chances of getting back into Soft Kill were becoming minimal, at best. If he suppressed the information, would it buy enough time to get Brandin Jessup to the party?

The biggest question was, who is Sloan Taylor? If Matt and Danielle Sharp were picking him for the role, he was probably a phenomenal actor. They rarely made personnel mistakes. So bearing that in mind, Brandin was probably dead in the water, unless something happened to Sloan Taylor.

Making up his mind, he lifted the phone and hit a speed dial number.

"This is Thomas Dern. I know that you have a large contingent at Big Bear with Brandin, but I need you to reallocate some resources for an expedited job. I also need every scintilla of information on an actor named Sloan Taylor, I will fax over his basic info. I also will need a team for a special job."

There was a brief pause, before he interrupted, "I realize that, but this is now our top priority. I'll have the basics to you within five minutes."

He disconnected the call and typed in another number. While waiting for the call to go through, he began to reconsider whether this was the right choice. It only took a few moments before he rose from his desk and crossed to stare out the large office window at the glimmering lights below. How he loved this town!

A sleepy voice answered after the second ring.

"This is Thomas Dern. Pull the complete file on an actor named, Sloan Taylor. Sierra-Lima-Oscar-Alpha-November-Tango-Alpha-Yankee-
Lima-Oscar-Romeo. I need it yesterday. Fax everything you can to this number...."

After the call, he spent a long time staring out that window. he knew that he was risking a lot on this gambit, but he saw the potential payoff as worth the risk. After a few minutes, his phone vibrated.


He listened intently to the voice of one of his security consultants.

"Excellent. Now give me a brief run-down of what you have."

As he listened, he smiled with anticipation.

Goodness Gracious, how he loved this town!


"So. What now?" Sloan asked.

"Baby, I will do whatever you say. If you want, I will quit and walk away."

"Don't be so melodramatic. We both know that that won't work. As I see it, we have only one real choice to make. We either go along with the plan and explore where it leads us, or we get a divorce."

"Divorce?" Dana was shocked at his casual use of the word.

"Think about it. If we do not go along with her plan, how will we be able to suppress our inner demons? Our entire married life will be a struggle to fight what we crave. You crave the roughness and dominating sex that I cannot give you. In many ways, the very idea of you doing that is the most frightening, yet arousing thing in the world to me.


"I'm ashamed to confess, but there are times that the very thought of seeing you being dominated by another man sets me on fire, at the same time, it makes me almost physically ill. I feel dirty, but I can't help it."

He took a deep breath and shook himself.

"In my own defense, it may be just a harmless fantasy. I really don't know. As for my dressing up, it may just be the acting challenge involved in this role, or a deeper craving that I cannot fully articulate. All I really know is that there are dozens of forces at play within me that are both exciting and frightening."

"I feel the same, but I'm so worried that our life together will be destroyed."

"In some ways, hasn't it already been destroyed? Maybe we should stop looking at it that way. Maybe we can't salvage us from all this mess, but is it, at least, possible that we can adapt our lives to this new reality while keeping us together? Aren't the Sharps, themselves evidence that a couple can remain together while expanding their lifestyle?"

"I don't know, baby. I just know that I'm scared. I'm scared to remain where we are, and I'm scared of what the changes will do to us."

"Me, too, but I think it's better than divorce."

"Let's go to bed and think about it. maybe we can talk more tomorrow."

As they got into bed, Sloan caressed his wife. As she responded, he pressed his growing erection against her ass.

"Sloan, just hold me. Please."

"I want to make love to you."

"We can't."

"Oh. But I thought you just had your..."

"It's not my period. It's Danielle. She wants you to abstain from sex until the party."

"What the fuck???"

"She told me to call her when I got home. She then gave me instructions for preparing you. She said if you break the mandate, she will not train you anymore. That was what made me realize I had to tell you the truth about what was going on."

"I see." Sloan's voice was devoid of emotion.

"I suppose that we can..."

"NO. I won't give her the satisfaction of proving her right. Besides, she would know. I have no doubts."

The young couple spent a fitful night, tossing and turning in frustrated anguish.

Chapter Thirty-Two

It had been a turbulent week. The constant emotional roller-coaster was playing havoc on both of their lives. The lack of sexual gratification had Sloan and Dana on edge, and they were each looking forward to the upcoming Carnaval theme party at the Sharp's estate with a mixture of anticipation and fear.

Sloan and Dana rode in together as they discussed their decision, as well as any possible alternatives. It rapidly became apparent that circumstances had effectively taken the decision out of their hands. They also were acutely aware of how the older couple were manipulating them, but could see that their game was based on a strategy of attrition. There was no need for Danielle to press the issue with Sloan, and Matt had shown no inclination to press Dana.

Over the past ten days, there had been little change in the troubled status quo. It was Wednesday, and the Sharp's Carnaval party was only three days away. Dana had been working late every evening with Gabriel and Matt to complete pre-production on Soft Kill as well as to finish the preparations for the party.

Dana's frustrations were compounded by her own horniness. Since Sloan was being forced into celibacy, she felt it was only right that she do likewise. He had offered to help her out, and she had been tempted to take matters into her own hand on more than one occasion, but the idea of allowing Sloan to suffer as she pleasured herself was shameful and she had remained resolute.

As the weekend loomed they were both becoming frazzled. Sloan was progressing well, according to Danielle. He seemed to become more immersed in the role by the hour. She had begun allowing him out to run errands. He was becoming very popular, and she had begun hearing rumors about her hot new assistant becoming a bit of a flirt.

Sloan had but a few brief encounters with Dana on a daily basis, as well as seeing Matt and Gabriel over that period. Matt was always preoccupied, and on those few encounters, he had barely glanced at Sloan. This treatment had actually begun to upset the young actor. After all, it was important that Matt accept him as being a real woman. How could he accomplish that goal if the man never even acknowledged his presence? After one such meeting in Danielle's office, Sloan had visibly deflated as soon as Matt's entourage had swept out of the room.

"Whatever is wrong, dearest?"

"He never even notices me. I try to dress nice, and I always smile. He treats me like a piece of furniture."

Danielle's laugh was brief, but her smile was warm as she pulled Sloan down to sit beside her. Holding both of his hands in hers, she looked at him with barely suppressed hunger as he fiddled with his skirt.

"You silly, silly girl. You are so smart, so pretty, yet so naive!"
Sloan fidgeted and continued to look down at his lap in anguish. This brought a frown and brief rebuke from the older woman.

" You must always look at me when I speak to you, Taylor!"

By now his response was automatic.

"Yes, Miss. Sorry."

"That's better."

The smile returned to her face.

"You have much to learn about men, especially men like Mr. Sharp."

She made sure that she had Sloan's full attention before brushing a stray hair along his cheek. Her soft touch making him shiver.

"Men are such beasts, sometimes. They never understand the lengths that we go to please them. They have only three basic needs and they can only ever focus on one of those needs at a time."

She lightly caressed his cheek as she spoke.

"Men have a basic need to take care of the ones they love, to take care of themselves, and to crush any obstacle that stands in their way.

When he is in a business meeting he is thinking of the last need. He is focused on crushing the challenge of getting this film done. When we are together, he is focused on the need to take care of me. When he takes a toy to the playroom, he is focused on the need to take care of himself."

Sloan tried to wrap his own mind around this concept.

"Am I like that?"

She laughed, again.

"Of course not, I was talking about men."


"Listen to me, Taylor, and learn. You may have thought you were a man, but that was acting. Come with me"

She pulled him to his feet and led him to a large mirror along one wall. She stood behind him, hands on his shoulders.

"Tell me what you see, Taylor."

"I see myself."

"Don't be pedantic, you silly girl. What do you see?"

Sloan stared at the reflection and blushed.

"I see...."

He gulped.

"I see...."

Tears began to well in his eyes as he stared at himself.

"I see..."

He felt her breath on his neck as she bent her head down, hiding her satisfied smile.

"Do you see a man?"

"No Miss. I see a...a woman."

"Yessss, my sweet little girl."

Her lips lightly brushed his throat as his entire universe tilted. It was as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. The blinders were off as Sloan gazed at the lovely vision in the mirror.

"I am a woman."

"A beautiful woman," she smiled.

Sloan was almost in a fog. It became rapidly apparent to Danielle that her charge had experienced enough for the day. She buzzed for told Bobbie and instructed her to send for the car.

"Yes, Ms. Sharp."

Bobbie glanced at Taylor as she stood in front of a mirror wall staring at her own reflection with a faraway look in her eyes. As she returned to her desk, the receptionist wondered why she had not seen a mention of Taylor in the gossip rags. Apparently, the information was not as earth shattering as she had hoped, but she was keeping the cash, regardless.

"I want you to go do a little shopping, pet. Make yourself look perfect for next week."
She wrote down an address and handed it to Sloan.

"Give this to the driver, I will call ahead to make sure that you get everything you need. Ask the driver to call me as soon as he gets you there. By that time, I will have made arrangements for you to visit one or two other....boutiques."

Her smile would have made the Cheshire Cat jealous.

Chapter Thirty-Three

It was invigorating, energizing, and stimulating. Sloan felt like royalty. She was pampered and spoiled by the proprietor and staff of the spa where Danielle's driver had left him. It was almost three hours of the most wickedly pleasant overindulgence he had ever experienced. When he exited the building the driver held the door and whisked him away to a small boutique just off Rodeo Drive.

Sloan had been measured in the spa as he was being denuded of any extraneous body and facial hair, styled, made over, and coddled. His nails, eyes, lips, fingers and toes were amazingly chic. He knew that Dana had talent, but her talent was focused on a different plane of makeup.

He felt like a super model when he arrived at the shop and was immediately surrounded by fluttering assistants who had an entire rack of clothing assembled for him to try. Within the hour, he had lost count of the outfits. The shop manager, Riva, observed each one and either shrugged or gave a brief shake of the head to denote acceptance or denial. At one point, he smiled and gave an enthusiastic, "YES!"

It was a little after 7:00 when he was escorted to the door with Riva's assurances that the correct items would be delivered first thing on Monday. He stepped out into the twilight and noticed that the car was not waiting. He checked his watch then reached into his purse for his phone. Just then he saw a cab pull up to the curb, dropping a tall passenger at the corner.


Sloan hurried to the waiting taxi, leaning in as the passenger, politely held the door for him.

"I need to go to..."

The passenger shoved him into the backseat, and the driver began to accelerate away. The cab swayed right around the corner then turned left into an alley as Sloan reached for the opposite door. The large man grabbed his right wrist and tried to wrench it behind him in an arm-lock, but Sloan went limp, turning his body with the motion, and twisting his arm into the man's grip. At the same time, he shoved the heel of his left hand into the bridge of the large assailant's nose.


The big man drew back his fist and slammed it into Sloan's midsection, sending the air out of his lungs and leaving him struggling to breathe as the cab shuddered to a stop, accompanied by the sound of twisting metal. Sloan watched helplessly as he noticed the big man glance forward, dropping a syringe filled with yellowish liquid.

Suddenly he heard the driver door open and a soft 'pop'. The large man looked angrily toward the front seat, clawing madly to pull out a dark, ugly-looking handgun. There was another 'pop', this one even louder, followed by an acrid odor, as the big man collapsed on top of Sloan. The rear door was immediately pulled open and Sloan was literally dragged out from under his attacker. He was still struggling to breathe as he looked into the soft brown eyes of his rescuer.

"Are you okay?"

Sloan struggled to form words, but could only nod.

"Come on, we have to get you out of here. I'm sure you don't want the cops to question you about all this."

Sloan tried to figure out what the man meant. He saw that his savior was dressed in comfortable jeans, a dark red polo, and hiking boots. He was about 6-2, very fit, with a confident air. Sloan's gaze went to his belt, where he had clipped a blocky device with a rubberized handle.

"Taser," was the man's only comment.

Sloan saw that a black SUV was idling nearby, it's tubular steel grill barely showing a scratch where it had crumpled the left front fender of the cab. Behind the wheel was another man, casually scanning the area in all directions, as the soft strains of country and western music filtered outward, like tendrils of smoke from the truck's stereo.

"Can you walk?"

The man with the soft eyes helped him into the back of the SUV and they were off. The man looked Sloan over, checking for signs of injury. He had almost panicked when he saw the dark red blood stain on Sloan's ivory blouse, but Sloan reassured him that all the blood was from the big man.

The man with the soft eyes gave him a smile and a nod.

"Looks like ya got a piece of him. Good."

As the truck smoothly rolled up onto the freeway, Sloan began to become cognizant of the fact that someone had just tried to kidnap him. The whole ordeal felt like hours, but a glance at his watch told him that it had only been a few minutes.

"Why would someone try to kidnap me? Where was the driver? Is he alright?"

"Whoa. Slow down. He is fine. It was a set-up. Someone partially deflated the right rear tire while he was checking out a broa...uh...lady across the street. Just before you came out, the friendly cabbie told him he had a really low tire. He went down the block to change it at the 76 station. They had someone wander around inside as a customer to tip them off when you were about to come out. Pretty good timing, actually."

"Who are you guys?"

"I'm Fred. I know, stupid name, but it's short for Alfredo which I can't stand, So that left me with Alfie, Fredo, or Fred. I chose Fred."

His smile was devastating.

"Thank you Fred, and..."

Her eyes turned to the front seat.

"Bobby Earl doesn't talk much."

Sloan saw the driver smile at her in the rearview and nod his head, as a country crooner sang a song about barroom women and cheap whiskey.

"Why doesn't he speak, is he mute?

Fred laughed and Bobby Earl snorted and grinned. Fred had a laugh that sent tingles straight up Sloan's spine and those eyes made her stomach flutter.

"Nah. I guess he just doesn't have much to say." Bobby winked at Sloan in the rearview, making her return his infectious grin. "Me and Bobby Earl been partners about eight years. I don't think I heard a dozen words outta him in all that time."

Bobbie Earl just nodded along and the soft crooning country music gave the whole scene a dream-like quality.

She suddenly looked around with a start. "Where are we going?"

"Don't worry, darlin', we're just stopping off to meet somebody, then straight back to the studio."

Chapter Thirty-Four

George Hadley was so fucking tired of this shit. He held the phone and listened to his new instructions. He was well-trained, and a meticulous planner. His teams rarely made mistakes, but as any trained soldier knows, the first adage of combat is that Murphy is always around to fuck things up.

He merely muttered an occasional terse response until he was clear on his instructions.

"Yes, Sir. We will be rolling in five."

He glanced once at Brandin Jessup's door, then walked outside and got in the big SUV. He saw the taillights of the last crew vehicle turn onto the main road and nodded to Mike who put the truck in gear and pulled out to follow the convoy back to LA. At least, it is late enough that we won't hit any traffic, he thought, as they turned west onto 38. He finally shook his head in resignation.

'Sheesh, what a clusterfuck!'


Danielle Sharp was pacing, angrily around her office. Where the hell was Taylor? Her driver had called to say that he had needed to change a flat tire and returned to find the shop closed. Her calls to Riva went unanswered. She debated calling Matt to see if Dana had heard from her husband, but didn't want to start a panic.

As she was about to give up, and call Matt, the door opened and in walked Taylor, looking gorgeous.

"Where have you been, Taylor? I was worried sick!!!"

Sloan set a shopping bag on the sofa. "The car wasn't there, and I had to call a cab. I would've been back sooner, but I needed to stop and get a new blouse. I accidentally spilled wine on mine"


Brandin Jessup was feeling nauseous. He stumbled from his bed feeling the cramping in his stomach as if his intestines were being twisted into knots. He scrambled into the bathroom and heaved a torrent of bile into the porcelain throne. He felt another rumble of warning and barely managed to turn and sit before another torrent emerged from a different orifice.

'What the fuck did I do last night?' He idly wondered before the reality hit. The silence was almost eerie. There was no background television noise, no soft music, no bustle of people moving about the cabin. Where was everyone?

He wiped and flushed, then rinsed out his mouth in the sink. What the fuck was in that shit? He knew he'd made a major mistake, but he couldn't help himself. Besides, it was only cooking sherry.

Opening the bathroom door, he found the entire cabin deserted. They were gone. The place was empty. When he opened the shades, there were no lights on anywhere in the compound. They had all pulled out. The compound was empty. He stood there dumbfounded, cursing the roiling of his gut. Brandin Jessup felt completely alone.

He went back into his room, the empty bottle lying in plain sight where he had dropped it. On the dresser, he saw his wallet, keys, and cell phone. He grabbed the phone, but it was dead.

"Dead. Like your career you dumb fucking asshole!" he croaked at the gaunt, stringy-haired, half-woman that he saw reflected in the mirror.

Taking a quick shower, he then fumbled through his clothes, trying to find something to wear. He knew that there were no male clothes to be found, so he settled on a pair of jeggings and a too-tight tee shirt that barely reached his waist. He covered it with a short, leather jacket to obscure the feminine artwork on the front.

Grabbing his wallet and keys, he fumbled for a few moments trying to find a place to store them. Unwilling to carry a purse, he stuffed them into the jacket's pockets before heading out the door. In the driveway, he spotted a small, sporty compact coupe.

'Thank God they left me a car,' he thought.

Getting behind the wheel, he considered his options. His first impulse was to call Thomas and try to explain, but was that a good idea? It would be much more effective if he could talk with his agent face to face. That was going to be painful with no support, but who could he count on for support?

Brandin was suddenly struck by the depths of his own isolation. He had no real friends to call on. His mother, always his biggest fan and strongest supporter, was in a nursing home and suffering from a stroke and early onset Alzheimer's. He kept her in one of the finest, and most expensive, senior care facilities in the world. Thomas had apparently cashed out. The only people left were hangers on and flunkies that couldn't care less about his problems.

His only hope was Thomas Dern. Maybe Brandin could convince him to give him one more chance. the man had been the closest thing to a father that Brandin Jessup had ever known. Despite his many fuck-ups, Brandin knew that Thomas truly cared about him. Maybe he had seriously destroyed any hope of landing the part in Soft Kill, but there were other projects.

Starting the car, he pulled out of the drive onto the road leading into Big Bear. The crisp chill of the air helped to clear his head, but he knew he needed to grab something to eat, despite the agony of his stomach. He rolled into town and pulled into the first convenience store he saw.

He paid at the pump and started filling the tank. Leaving pump running, he went inside the store, grabbed some chips and a couple snack cakes. On the way to the register, he paused at a cooler and eyed the drinks.

'Maybe a little hair of the dog to settle the nerves,' he thought, as he grabbed a six-pack of Carlsberg.

It was a little after 11:00 pm when he paid and walked back out to the car. Dumping his purchases on the passenger seat, he shut the pump off, got behind the wheel, and hit the road for the three-hour drive to Thomas Dern's home.

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