On the screen, the scene changed again and the earnest and beautiful face of investigative reporter Whitney Stone appeared. Her hair was dark, cut at a sharp angle, her eyes large and sincere, her chin pointed and her attitude one of incredible concern. She started speaking intimately into the camera’s lens.

For the truth.

For justice.


For the public’s right to know!

Even better.

Whitney promised a complete exposé on what really happened to Allie Kramer. Was the wildly popular actress alive or dead? Or maybe being held captive? Used as some kind of sex slave? Or bargaining chip? Or was this all an elaborate publicity stunt foisted on the American public by Galactic West Productions, the company that had produced the movie? Too many questions had no answers, but Whitney Stone vowed to uncover and dissect the truth for her viewers during Mystery Week on the cable station on which her program aired. What more intriguing mystery could there be than what had happened to America’s Darling, Allie Kramer?

“America’s Darling?” Like Allie was Shirley Temple or Sandra Bullock or Reese Witherspoon or whoever the current sweetheart of the week was?

Her insides curled.

Even though Whitney Stone’s interest was all part of the plan.

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Stone insisted that in following installments what had happened to Allie Kramer would become crystal clear.

Now, she picked up her stemmed glass and twirled it in her fingers. Staring through the clear liquid, she viewed the television and the distorted image of Whitney Stone’s face. Perfect. She took a sip.

Stone was gazing so intently into the camera and reminding viewers that the star of Dead Heat, Allie Kramer not only had gone missing, but her disappearance had occurred just ten years after she and her sister, Cassie, as well was their mother, Jenna Hughes, had survived a horrific and brutal attack.

Pictures of the three women filled the screen.

Her fingers tightened over the stem of her glass.

Whitney Stone posed the questions:

Was this Hollywood family cursed?

Was another psychotic fan on the loose?

Could Jenna and her daughters never find a “normal” or “peaceful” life?

“Of course not,” she said to the flat screen. Another sip as anger sparked deep inside.

A montage of pictures rolled across the screen, short clips of Jenna Hughes in her starring roles. For a few seconds Jenna Hughes became Anne Parks in Resurrection. One by one, there were more quick tidbits, glimpses of other roles Jenna had played as the heroines of Beneath the Shadows and Bystander. Then, to top off the collage, the last clip was of Jenna as a naive teen in Innocence Lost, the movie destined to become an overnight success and elevate her to stardom.

The screen suddenly split and Jenna’s image filled one half, while Allie Kramer, at around the same age, was on the other. Both mother and daughter had been catapulted to fame, as teens at the center of a darkly sexual coming-of-age film.

The comparison was obvious. Though Allie couldn’t pass for her mother—too many of her father’s genes were evident in her features—the resemblance to Jenna Hughes was noticeable.

Watching the quick little clips, she felt her insides churn. She barely heard Whitney Stone’s promise of a soon-to-be-aired “explosive interview” that would “shatter” the image of the reclusive Jenna Hughes and her family. A family portrait of Jenna, Cassie, and Allie came into view and as the camera zoomed in closer, Whitney Stone’s voiceover assured the viewers that, “The daughters of Jenna Hughes are not who they seem to be!”

“No shit,” she whispered, alone in the dark room. Anger coursed through her veins and her jaw hardened. She watched the image of Jenna and her daughters fade into individual pictures, first Jenna, then Cassie, and finally the missing Allie, before they slowly vanished from sight.

That damned bitch, Whitney Stone, pulled the teaser off beautifully. Perfectly. Stirring the pot, adding to the mystery surrounding the Kramer sisters and promising a full-blown exposé on the secretive little family. Whetting the viewers’ appetites for more info on Allie Kramer’s disappearance, Whitney Stone had also created the illusion that she was actually the star, a heroine fighting for truth and justice.

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