Rubicon Ranch is a collaborative and innovative crime serial set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and is being written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. Seven authors are involved in the current story — Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces.
Residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.
Although some of the characters were introduced in Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a previous collaboration, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces is a stand-alone novel. A new chapter is posted every Monday.
We hope you will enjoy seeing the story develop as we write it. Whodunit? No one knows, not even the writers, and we won’t know until the very end!
Chapter 21: Leia Menendez
by Claire Collins
Leia’s heart pounded in her ears. She slid down the kitchen door to the cool tile floor. The sweat soaking her tanktop chilled against her skin in the air conditioning. Maisey’s dark eyes watched from under the safety of the table.
She vacillated between excitement at finally getting what she came for and hyperventilation at finally getting what she came for. She’d slipped into the Sinclair house through the same door the creepy Morris spinoff had exited. She’d found Morris’s stash, and left a present in exchange for taking what belonged to her.
She took deep breaths, trying to calm herself and cease the uncontrollable shaking of her hands. It didn’t work. She launched herself off the floor to vomit in the trashcan under the sink, the pictures in her hand dropping to the floor as she went.
Her hands started to shake again and she gripped the countertop for support. With a deep breath, she turned from the counter to gather the photos from the floor. Many of them fell face up. Leia found herself looking at the images that she never wanted to see to begin with. Two girls, a younger version of an innocent Leia and the beautiful blonde, her best friend, Jasmine. Jaz. Tears slipped down Leia’s cheeks but she didn’t bother to wipe them off. She found herself on her hands and knees, sliding the pictures into a pile. There was an elbow here, a knee there. A breast. Jaz’s face, her eyes glassy, her face rubbery and unresponsive. Leia’s face the way it was before she began the series of plastic surgeries.
Some of the photos were blessedly face down. The writing on the back of the photos showed their names and ages. Both were lies they told to get the job. She became Ashley Smith, age 19 and Jaz became Brandy Miller, age 20. In reality, they both had all of the worldy charm and thoughts of the 16 year-olds they were. They thought they could break into the world of modeling and acting by responding to an ad. At the audition, they signed papers saying they were over 18 and the agent sent them for a photo shoot for a book cover.
They drove Jaz’s car for an hour to get to the address the agent gave them. The house was little more than a shack but Leia and Jaz didn’t know enough to turn around when they felt nervous about the neighborhood. They were willing to make sacrifices to follow their dreams. Then they met Morris Sinclair and his photographer.
Leia’s skin crawled as she remembered the first time she saw Morris and the way he eyed the girls. She scooped more photos into the pile as her stomach threatened to unload again.
They were each offered a soda and the photographer talked to them. Morris only leered. Within a short time of arriving, the girls relaxed. Leia thought she was becoming comfortable with the men but later, she realized the sodas were drugged.
They started posing for the photos. They were laughing and excited about the photo shoot. More sodas came from somewhere but the taste changed, becoming more bitter than sweet. They forgot all about the sparse furnishings and unease. They forgot almost everything. Leia wishes she could forget everything now.
Before the photo session was over, she and Jaz went from posing for the pictures to being posed. Leia remembered enough to know that she didn’t want to do a lot of it but her body wasn’t under her control. The sex began with her and the photographer. She didn’t know how it started but she recalled being mortified that he was suddenly on her and they were all naked except Morris. She wasn’t sure how it happened. She tried to stop but everything proceeded despite her protests. She wasn’t even sure if her pleas were out loud or only in her head. Another flash of reality involved her and Jaz while the photographer watched. Morris took the pictures most of the time. Leia wasn’t sure who was taking the pictures when Morris forced Jaz to perform a sex act on him. The next real thing Leia remembered was waking up in the house on the stained mattress, a small pile of cash on the floor. Everyone was gone except her and Jaz. She was afraid Jaz was dead because her breathing was so shallow that it was barely perceptible. She just wanted to get out of there. She managed to get Jaz up and out of the house. Leia drove the car back to her house even though she didn’t have a driver’s license. She couldn’t take Jaz home. Her parents would collapse to the floor and call in as many expensive psychiatrists and therapists as they could find. They’d never let Jaz see Leia again.
No one would bat an eye at two stoned girls at Leia’s house. Her mom succumbed to cancer when she was seven and after that, her dad only worked and drank. There was no one else.
She scooped up more pictures. Thank God she got them out of that house before the police began their search. She had scooted out the back door as Moody answered the front door.
A picture of a smiling Jaz. So young and full of life. Leia ran her fingertip over the photo. Jaz couldn’t handle what happened to them. Six months after they were drugged and raped, Jaz committed suicide using the gun Leia’s dad kept under the couch cushion.
Leia ran. She had her mother’s beauty and she used it to support herself. She knew what she had that would make money… and make money she did. She was an excellent actress. The years of plastic surgeries transformed her look enough to make her Tara Windsor’s twin and once she completed cleaning up the Morris mess, she would dispose of Tara Windsor and step right into her shoes.
She slid the last picture over to put it in the pile. It was the head shot she submitted to the agent to get the book cover job. Angry at her young smiling self, she flipped the photo over, the words on the back grabbing her attention. She read them, then dropped the photo and curled into the fetal position on the kitchen floor.
Ashley Smith- 19
Leia Menendez – 16
AKA – Tara Windsor look alike
AKA – Brandy Jasmine – Porn star