A university PhD joins a wannabe scripter looking to get their hands on an infamous agent. 4,847 words. Illustration by The Fates Crew.
Lyle Fields wasn’t prepared for his first encounter with Hollywood. He was a misguided academic who actually believed in the Great American Novel. How stupid was that? When he wasn’t teaching, all he did was focus on writing the Big One. His work on Ernest Hemingway alone ought to have guaranteed him a berth among Stanford’s elite Harte Fellows. Yet each autumn he applied; each spring he was rejected.
Face it: he was a third-rate college prof. It was not always so. Once hailed for his promising short fiction, Professor Fields briefly basked in the rarified upper echelons of American Letters as a darling of the Modern Language Association. While still hot, he published a pair of critically acclaimed short stories in two ultra-obscure literary quarterlies.
But sprinters rarely win marathons. He labored long and hard, manuscript after manuscript, to bring forth his own Great American Novel, only to be repeatedly rewarded with “no thank you” letters. “Too literary” was the kindest and most recurrent criticism. “Bloated,” “self-indulgent” and “pretentious” also popped up frequently. He must have collected a couple hundred such rejections. It was not the track record of a Harte Fellow.
Thus, over time, everything about Lyle Fields became desperately monotonous. He reeked of also-ran. Professor Fields got the worst classes with the slowest students in the least tolerable time slots. He protested. No one listened. Lyle’s survey course was considered obligatory tedium to fulfill general education requirements so students could dig into some real classes to get them to Wall Street. Screw fiction: how about arbitrage?
Lyle swiveled his chair. “Clarissa? Clarissa Daugherty! It is still Daugherty?”
“Yes indeed!” she smiled.
“Well do come sit,” he said. “I was just getting ready for my Joyce lecture.”
“Carol Oates?” she asked. Lyle fell into awkward silence, which Clarissa broke with a wave of her hand. “Just kidding,” she said. “I remember Ulysses. Dr. Fields, you read my letter?”
Clarissa had recently written that she lived in L.A., was trying to become a screenwriter, and had a huge surprise for him. Huge! Clarissa always spoke in superlatives: everything was unbelievable, absolutely the most, bigger than god. But Lyle had dismissed her note as momentary nostalgia from a favored former student. He hadn’t actually expected to see her in the flesh
“Well, I have a problem,” she said. “I found Hemingway’s suitcase.”
He sat still. He blinked twice.
“I found Hemingway’s suitcase,” she repeated.
“The suitcase?” he asked. He could not have been more astonished if she had reached across the desk and yanked his goatee.
Lyle was able to call himself Dr. Fields thanks to the suitcase. His doctoral thesis had explored every detail and nuance of the near-mythical piece of luggage that contained young Ernest Hemingway’s early life’s work. The lore went like this: Hadley Richardson — the first of Hemingway’s four wives – met the future novelist at a party in Chicago in 1919. Within the year, they married, moved to Paris and began a life she could never have imagined back in her native St. Louis.
Mrs. Hemingway was utterly devoted to her husband and his budding career as journalist and author. So it was with the greatest reverence and care that she did as Ernest commanded on the afternoon of December 2, 1922, and obediently loaded a suitcase with all his writings. He intended to work on them during their Swiss holiday.
Her husband had already left for some bobsledding, serious drinking, and ski lodge R&R. Hadley locked up their Left Bank apartment, bought a ticket at the Gare de Lyon, and hurried to catch the night train from Paris to Lausanne. After boarding, she set the suitcase on her seat and briefly returned to the platform to buy a newspaper and a bottle of water. When she returned, the suitcase was gone.
She searched frantically. Arriving the next day, she wept uncontrollably, unable to tell Ernest what had happened until she finally blurted out, “I lost your suitcase.”
The full brunt of what she said hit Hemingway like a well-placed knee to the groin. She had lost his suitcase! Three years of work gone in one unguarded moment. Hemingway felt that, at the age of 23, his life as a writer was done.
He did write again, of course. Years later, after he had published a stack of classics and accepted the Nobel Prize For Literature, Papa grudgingly admitted that maybe his tragic loss hadn’t been so terrible after all. Maybe the whole suitcase incident was a blessing in disguise.
But scholars like Lyle Fields obsessed on the subject of the phantom valise. There wasn’t a footnote, a letter or an oral history about it that Fields hadn’t scoured and used for his thesis. Every few years, rumors raced through the halls of academia that some fragment of the contents of the invaluable satchel had been found, but nothing had ever actually surfaced. And the 11 short stories, pile of poems, and incomplete first novel remained forever lost.
Fields could hardly believe what he was hearing. It had to be a hoax.
“I wasn’t the one who actually found it,” said Clarissa, leaning forward in her chair. “It was tagged for an estate sale like one of those dusty old steamer trunks that nobody’s looked in for a million years and the key got lost and it had just been sitting in some attic somewhere getting moldy.” Her hands rose and fell with the urgency in her voice.
“Calm yourself,” counseled Fields. “Tell what happened from the beginning. You say you didn’t actually find it?”
Clarissa swallowed her excitement, only to have it build again.
“See, I met this guy Herbie when I moved to L.A.,” she said. “He’s a screenwriter like me.”
She’d been taking Advanced Buddy Movie Theory at UCLA Extension and announced on the first day of class that she wanted to write a Thelma And Louise-type film, only with more sex. “I could never seem to get past a really boffo opening scene where sharks or tornados or extraterrestrials attack an innocent heroine. It wasn’t until I was rewriting the opening for the 40th time that I took the class.”
Turned out Herbie was planning a Lethal Weapon knockoff, only with more sex.
“The instructor made students pair up, so naturally we were a match. Herbie’s gay. But we had this spiritual, visceral, extrasensory thing going on the moment we started talking. Soul sibs, you know? That is, as long as I overlooked the fact that Herbie regularly sold meth to Hollywood.
“When Herbie’s not selling or writing, he goes around to abandoned storage units and estate sales looking for junk he can pick up for a few dollars and unload at the swap meet. Sometimes I go with him. So, two weeks ago, he finds this ancient suitcase at this old woman’s home in West Hollywood. She was, like, 90. She dies and the family is selling everything. So Herbie buys the suitcase for five dollars, Dr. Fields!”
She stood and paced as he listened, transfixed.
“He gets it home and tries to pry it open. It’s not happening. He has to take it to a locksmith. The guy pops the lock and, bingo! Inside are three manila folders with these stories spilling out. One manuscript is bigger than all the rest. A novel! And the name on all the stuff, in big lettering, is ‘Ernest Hemingway’. Ernest fucking Hemingway!”
A Pulitzer Prize began to flicker across Fields’ imagination. Perhaps a National Book Award for his incisive criticism of the lost Hemingway oeuvre. He’d catch the next plane to London to accept an appointment at Cambridge. Jesus, Lyle suddenly saw himself as a Harte Fellow.
He leaned in closer. “Are you absolutely sure this isn’t fake?”
“Not likely,” she said, a huge pout forming at her mouth. “If it wasn’t genuine, why was it worth stealing?”
“Stolen?” Fields whispered.
“That,” she announced gravely, “is why I’m here, Lyle.” It was the first time she had ever called him by his first name.
Thus began the rest of her story. After Clarissa had driven over to Herbie’s place and confirmed that he had indeed bought himself a gold mine, Herbie set out to mine the gold. Herbie calculated that a movie or two was in this suitcase – maybe even a Netflix miniseries. Herbie said he had a former meth client at a top Hollywood agency who was a Papa fanatic and would tell them what to do with it.
Herbie had seen that Ronnie Caillet’s Beverly Hills office was a Hemingway shrine. There were photographs taken Papa-style, like when Caillet flew to Ted Nugent’s Texas ranch to shotgun elk. A stuffed marlin hung on the wall above the desk. Caillet padded around his inner sanctum in rope-soled sandals when he wasn’t wearing Ferragamos. Caillet’s bookshelves included first editions from Hemingway novels and rows upon rows of books about Hemingway the man, his literature, or both.
Clarissa listened while Herbie phoned the agency, but Mr. Caillet was on an international conference call and couldn’t be disturbed. “Tell him Herbert J. Stephens called, will you?,” he said to the secretary. “Tell Ronnie I’ve got Hemingway’s lost suitcase. Tell him I’ve got stuff at least as hot as a season’s worth of Ray Donovan. Ronnie’s got my number. If he’s interested, tell him to call me right away because my next call is to his biggest competitor.”
Two minutes later, the phone rang. “Ohmygod Herb!”
Caillet had been screaming for over an hour on the phone about a big international caper pic based on a novel, quibbling with the major studio execs over rights to this piece of shit published by a Cuban poet nobody had ever heard of. Why not find a Venezuelan writer for half price, he told them. What Herbie didn’t know yet was that Ronnie had slipped and been on his way to rehab that day until Herbie’s call, if true, made his night.
“Hemingway’s suitcase, right? My secretary had that much correct?”
“Yes,” said Herbie. “Now what are you going to do about it?”
Then Caillet was off and running. He arranged dinner that aevening with Herbie who kept Clarissa by his side. Ronnie talked old school but his glib and snide manner, which he failed to mask with laughter and flattery, showed an ability since youth to bullshit everyone. A mentor to far younger sharks, he had evolved over his 10 years in the agency business into a glad-handing shark who taught the newest predators at the agency how to feed off the creativity of others. The agency had a hundred agents like Ronnie: not bottom feeders exactly, but easily persuaded to go down for every deal. They’d snap at anything that might carry them to the next rung on the ladder – that is, if it didn’t involve hard work or deep thought.
Soon Clarissa and Herbie would realize that Caillet had character flaws far more serious than just those. But that night, she gleaned about Ronnie’s relationship with Herbie that the wannabe screenwriter had been a regular visitor to Caillet’s office. Herbie’s all-too-apparent smugness at having a meth client like that was the arrogant overreach of a Hollywood nobody who knows somebody who knows anybody. Herbie even went so far as to have a rubber stamp made of his signature so he wouldn’t have to bother scrawling in the log when he came to visit the agent’s office.
Ronnie had made reservations at the best restaurant in L.A. Nothing was too good for the suitcase’s unveiling. He ordered Cristal all around before they even looked at a menu. Clarissa remembered Grand Marnier soufflé following her poached salmon, but she also recalled Herbie downing three glasses of old vine Merlot with his rack of lamb. She was too excited to touch her food as Ronnie rhapsodized about a seven-figure rights deal. There would be executive producer credits for both of them, of course. Maybe get Chris Pratt to play young Hemingway. Tarantino would fuck up the purity of Papa, but how about Ang Lee to direct? They could consider going the HBO route. But Papa was way too big for binge watching.
In that first face-to-face, Clarissa hung on Herbie’s arm and smiled vacantly at Caillet’s multitude of promises. Herbie did have one question: Would he and Clarissa be able to write the screenplay? Ronnie nearly choked on his Pellegrino and began hacking into his napkin. When he’d calmed himself, he donned his most solemn face. Of course they’d write the screenplay. How could it be any other way?
“Then,” Clarissa recalled to Fields, “like some bonehead fresh off the Greyhound from Topeka, Herbie hands him the suitcase!”
She grabbed Herbie’s arm and tried to stop him, but she was too slow. He’d already opened the suitcase on the table and offered it to Caillet like a gutted lamb. Caillet could not disguise his greed. He snapped open the suitcase and ran his fingers across the folders like a gladiator lingering over the loins of a Sabine virgin. He closed and latched the suitcase, rose from the dinner table, and shook Herbie’s hand with both of his.
“We’ve got to get on this right now,” Caillet said, talking fast. “We’ll get it to the right people. Whoever we go with has got to see it immediately, and they’re going to want to see the real thing and not a bunch of lame photocopies. You’ll never regret going with me or my agency. You’re a shrewd man, Herb. And it’s been a real pleasure meeting you, too,” he said, speaking to Clarissa for the first time that evening. “Meantime, I’ll guard this with my life. And I’ll be in touch tomorrow.”
Then, like an Armani-clad ghost, he was gone.
Clarissa looked at Herbie, who was flagging down the waiter for another refill on the wine. She began feeling queasy even before she realized that Caillet wasn’t picking up the check. Herbie shrugged it off. “Probably so excited he forgot,” Herbie excused. He paid $257.48 and chalked it up to the cost of doing Hollywood business. He didn’t seem worried about the suitcase. “I know Ronnie,” he reassured her. “He’s the real deal.”
The real deal didn’t call as promised the next day. Another day passed and Herbie phoned Ronnie’s secretary just to check on his progress. “Mr. Caillet isn’t in. You can leave a message. I’ll make sure he gets it.”
A third day passed, then a fourth. A week later, Clarissa voiced anxiety. Herbie told her to chill. This was Ronald T. Caillet III they were dealing with! But privately Herbie began calling after hours and leaving messages directly on Ronnie’s voicemail. None of them were returned.
Finally, Herbie and Clarissa paid a visit to the agency’s headquarters. They fought their way past the receptionist only to confront Caillet’s secretary – a well-dressed Rottweiler in blood-red Zac Posen and matching Laboutins. She was sorry but Mr. Caillet had left Los Angeles and could not be contacted. His personal physician had ordered him on a long-overdue vacation after he’d contracted walking pneumonia. Mr. Caillet had left instructions not to disturb him under any circumstances. He wasn’t even checking email. Then she dismissed them.
“That was three days ago,” said Clarissa.
Fields’ mouth was dry. His eyes were watering. He heard his own voice sound distant and chalky. “So the suitcase is gone.”
“Not gone,” said Clarissa. “Temporarily in the hands of a maggot, and a drug-addled one at that. Word on the street is that Caillet is rehabbing somewhere in Northern California and about to make calls from there.”
“Well, he still has the suitcase,” Fields said grimly. “He’ll probably sell the rights to half the folders by next week.”
She startled him by grabbing his arm. “Come with me back to L.A.,” she said. “We’ll get the stuff back and you can authenticate it. We should have come to you in the first place to give it the official literary stamp of approval. You’re respected, Lyle. You’re even renown.”
Lyle sat up straighter. He adjusted his glasses and unconsciously straightened his tie before remembering he wasn’t wearing one.
Clarissa continued. “If it passes your inspection, next stop Paramount or Universal or maybe Warners or Fox. Are you up for it? Please?”
Fields glanced at his watch. In nine minutes, 150 students would be waiting to hear about Leopold Bloom’s visit to a Dublin brothel. How could he forsake Ulysses for a fool’s quest? On the other hand, Joyce was his next-to-last lecture before Spring Break. Fields peered out his window at the Harte Fellowship Center for a moment, then swiveled around to meet his former student’s eyes.
“Meet me back here in an hour. I’ll swing by my place to pick up a change of clothes and a toothbrush and cash. We should be on our way before noon.”
During the drive down to L.A., Fields began to doubt Hemingway ever owned a suitcase, let alone Clarissa’s story that Herbie finding it and then losing it. He began to doubt his own sanity in agreeing to come with her in the first place.
“We’re going to get that suitcase back, Lyle,” Clarissa promised him and herself. Her eyes narrowed as she pronounced each of her next words deliberately, as if a threat. “Not giving up. Not on the writing. Not on my screenplay. Not on the suitcase. Get. It. All. Back. Tonight. Understood?”
“I think I do,” he shuddered.
As dusk fell over the unusually warm spring air in Beverly Hills, the agency’s building rose like a lit-up marble obelisk against the darkness. As they went inside, Fields understood why Herbie thought the agency the most expedient way to exploit Hemingway’s earliest literary efforts. It made deals and profited from them. The agency bespoke wealth. Inside the tasteful and expensive lobby, all was cool mausoleum silence.
“Can I help you?” said a receptionist peeking over reading glasses from behind a horseshoe counter containing seven closed-circuit TV monitors. She impatiently set aside a screenplay she was reading for coverage.
“Ronnie Caillet’s office?” said Clarissa.
“Mr. Caillet’s gone for the day,” the receptionist said.
“He has some material we left with him,” Clarissa persisted.
“Did he leave it for pick up?”
“I wouldn’t think so. That’s why we need to go to his office. We’re clients.”
The receptionist’s smile was gone. “Well, business hours are over. I can’t let you upstairs without one of these.” She flashed a laminate on a lanyard. The card bore the agency logo — a wall-eyed Pegasus mounting a cloud as if it was a mare. “No one upstairs without an I.D. End of story.”
“But he has our manuscripts!”
“So come back in the morning when his secretary is here,” said the receptionist who was now talking into her headset. “Security? This is Tina at the front desk. I’ve got a situation.”
Fields’ first impulse was to grab Clarissa and run, but he suspected she wouldn’t budge. What would Hollywood people do to get upstairs? Fields plucked $100 from his wallet and waved it like a tarot card.
Tina covered the receiver. “What’s that? A tip?”
He pulled out 10 more bills and laid them on the counter in a row.
“Never mind,” Tina said into the headset. She deftly retrieved the bills with one hand while writing the date on a pair of stick-on visitor passes. “You can’t tell anyone I let you up. Caillet’s office is probably locked.” Tina laid a key on the counter. “I go to dinner in an hour. Be done by then.”
“This smacks of breaking and entering,” Fields whispered as Clarissa opened Ronnie Caillet’s office door.
“Entering,” she said, snapping on the lights. “No breaking involved. We’re just getting our rightful stuff back.”
The secretary’s tiny reception area contained two chairs, a couch, a filing cabinet, a desk and a computer. “It’s night. Nobody gives a damn if we’re sniffing around unless it’s Caillet or his gal Friday,” Clarissa continued. “She’s gone home and I’d love to see his lying face right about now. I’ll go through the files here as fast as I can then we’ll move to Caillet’s office.”
She bent over the bottom drawer of the cabinet, leafing through files in record time. “Nothing,” she said. Clarissa opened the door into Caillet’s inner sanctum. “Well, holy shit,” she said as she switched on a lamp and saw the movie posters: Gary Cooper as Robert Jordan in For Whom The Bell Tolls, Tyrone Power in The Sun Also Rises, The Old Man And The Sea featuring Spencer Tracy. She parsed through papers next to the computer: bills, unopened queries, form rejections on agency letterhead, a few screenplay pages.
Fields busied himself scanning the bookshelves opposite Caillet’s desk, scattered with old and apparently authentic postcards and letters that Papa once mailed from his haunts in Paris or Havana – the kind of esoteric goodies available only at auction or on eBay. Caillet owned editions of Hemingway published before Charles Scribner turned his publishing house over to his sons. The only contemporary volume was Papa: A Personal Memoir, written by Gregory, Hemingway’s third son. Several period photographs of the author dotted adjacent shelves – some shot in Europe and Africa and autographed by the third Mrs. Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn. Other photos featured a 38-year-old man who was not Hemingway but had gone to great pains to look like him. Clad in clean pressed khakis, this guy had either just come home from an antiseptic safari or a shopping spree at Banana Republic. In the largest of the framed photos, he posed beside a six-foot tarpon hanging from a hook on the dock of a Caribbean waterfront. Lyle held it out to Clarissa.
Clarissa scowled and nodded.
Caillet’s face crinkled in the harsh tropical light, but revealed no humor. The smile seemed photoshopped. His skin appeared both puffy and unnaturally smooth. “Face lift?” asked Lyle.
“Oh yeah,” said Clarissa. “Herbie says he’s had everything lifted.”
Clarissa next dug into the first of three cabinets behind Caillet’s desk, impatiently leafing through each drawer. Every brief “aha!” was followed by an audible moan, followed by more shuffling.
Lyle continued ranging through the Papa bric-a-brac. Caillet posed next to a life-size cardboard cutout of the author standing in front of the Ritz in Paris. Another featured Caillet with a beer stein at Harry’s Bar & Grill. A third was Caillet in safari uniform cradling a double-barreled shotgun in front of a large bungalow identified as the Hemingway Museum. Lyle recognized it as the Key West home where the author lived during the 1930s with second wife Pauline.
“I could use a hand here, Lyle,” said Clarissa. She stood on tiptoes, extending her arms to reach files at the back of the top drawer.
He spotted a file marked “To Have And Have Not,” but all it contained was a photo of a small suburban tract house and an artist’s rendering of a sweeping multi-level hillside home – all glass and oak beams. The photo was labeled “Have” and the rendering, “Have Not.”
Clarissa breathed out another “aha!” She handed a photocopy of a single sheet of paper to Lyle. The fonts were uneven and too clogged with dried ink for the original to have come from a laser printer. The short, single poem at the center of the page had to have been typed on an ancient Smith Corona or Underwood.
Pike. Cold November mornings with fog still on the lake. Thumb and index finger bring hook to line and sinker. In preparation for the dance. EMH
Clarissa exclaimed, “I remember reading this. It’s from the suitcase!”
Lyle peered into the drawer where it had been found. Inside a tab titled “Poetry” was a second sheet, also a photocopy of an original typed on an old manual typewriter. Lyle whistled low.
Clarissa read aloud over his shoulder. “‘I Like Americans, by A. Foreigner.’” She wrinkled her nose. ‘I like Americans. They are so unlike the English. They do not take their policemen seriously … They do not brag about how they take baths, but they take them. Their teeth are so good.’”
“That’s Hemingway,” said Fields.
“That’s Hemingway?” she asked. “What? When he was ten?”
“He wasn’t always so disciplined,” Lyle pontificated. “He abandoned poetry early.”
“Damned good thing,” said Clarissa.
“Papa figured out what he was good at and worked at it instead of trying to be a renaissance man. Hard to take back words once they’ve been published,” Fields said.
Lyle froze. The lights went on in the outer office. A security guard walked through the door. “Evening, folks,” he said. “Working late?”
His grandfatherly mustache and beard masked a generous rosebud mouth. He wore a nametag that identified him as “Ralph.”
Fields grinned in what he hoped was a convincing way. “Just wrapping up.”
Clarissa flashed her most winsome smile. “Be done in a jif, Ralph.”
With that, the guard left. Clarissa turned to Fields. “Nothing else here,” she said. “But it’s a start. Know what I mean?”
Midnight neared as they pulled onto the vast asphalt plain behind the L’Adobe Arms Apartments. Clarissa killed the engine and the soft hum of a hundred air conditioners hung in the air. Heat undulated in waves from the parking lot. The interior of her car remained cool but smelled of the wrappers from the In ‘n Out Double-Doubles they’d eaten on the way over which were coagulating in Fields’ stomach like a murder ball. As he left the car, his gut roiled beneath his rumpled sweat-stained shirt.
“There,” she said, pointing up the stairs to the door of Herbie’s rental. Of the three-dozen doors evenly spaced along the second floor landing of the huge Culver City complex, only Herbie’s was painted fuchsia. All the rest were a mashed pea green. The square city block consisted of dorm-sized studios resembling Muscovite military barracks. Everything that wasn’t stucco or asphalt was concrete or cinder block. The only visible plant life was a pair of palm trees painted on the wall outside the manager’s office. Clarissa rummaged in her purse as they approached Herbie’s door. Fields heard the faint blare of a TV inside and knocked. There was no answer.
Clarissa was still searching for the key when Fields tried the door. It gave. He nudged it wider. “Looks like he’s here,” Fields said before the smell hit him. Years earlier, Lyle had returned home from vacation to the pungent aroma of rotted rat. He’d nearly puked then; he felt like doing the same now.
Clarissa reeled. “What the hell is that?” She cupped both hands over her nose and turned away.
Fields reached into his inside coat pocket for a handkerchief, but came out with a ketchup-smeared In ‘n Out napkin. He clamped it to his nose and eased the door wider. NASCAR buzzed across a TV screen for an audience of one who could neither see nor hear. Herbie’s eyes were wide but stared straight at the ceiling. His bloating body lay naked on a couch.
Breathing through her mouth, Clarissa peered past Fields’ shoulder. “Is he dead?”
Carefully stepping past empty Big Gulp cups, Domino’s pizza cartons, and Der Weinerschnitzel chili cheese dog boxes, Lyle leaned in for a closer look. Beyond the distended belly, he could see the tines of a large serving fork rammed neatly into the base of Herbie’s throat.
Before he could stop himself, he said: “He’s done.”
Clarissa marched past Lyle into the apartment. She began digging through overturned bookcases, DVDs and other detritus. Fields came up behind and touched her shoulder. “We’d better call the police,” he said.
Fields retreated to the bedroom to look for a landline and found that it had been ripped from the wall. He jammed his hand in his pocket for his iPhone only to recall he’d left it in Clarissa’s car. As he scanned the bedroom, she gently whispered, “Don’t call them yet.”
With that, she stumbled out to the landing and sat down hard. Crossing her legs, she slumped against the wrought-iron railing. Her shoulders quivered each time she swallowed a breath and the rest of her body vibrated with whimpers. Fields gave her head a reassuring pat before he walked three yards to the next-door neighbor’s pea green door.
A woman answered his knock. Apologizing for the lateness of the hour, Fields asked if he might use the phone. “A man was hurt. Robbed, maybe. His phones don’t work.”
“Neither does he,” the woman said sourly. “Herbie sits on his butt all day and watches TV.”
Clarissa appeared at Fields’ side. “We’ve got to call the police. Mr. Stephens is dead. He’s been murdered.”
Just as Lyle picked up the phone, Clarissa gripped his forearm.
“Don’t mention the suitcase.”
“Just don’t. Not now.”
Lyle punched 911. They would take up the suitcase later.