Year One: Duquesa Bay

"Domino Dancing"

Across the street from KCON, Takanachi and Isaacson relax on a hard plastic booth inside of a Krispy Kreme. Zach sneaks a bite of Gracie's doughnut while she's in the restroom.

Gracie: (Returning) I just realized something... I'm now tinkling in the key of C minor, I wonder if I have a kidney infection?

Zach quickly swallows and gives a thumbs up.

Gracie: (Aghast) DID YOU JUST TAKE A BITE OF MY DOUGHNUT?

Zach: (Innocent) Um... no - I "taste-tested" it

Gracie: (Flopping in the booth) Right!

Zach: Look, this was the last fresh doughnut they had with chocolate sprinkles

Gracie: JIMMIES

Zach: SPRINKLES

Gracie: JIMMIES

Zach: SPRINKLES

Gracie: WHATEVER

Zach: Aw, c'mon, we usual go about two minutes with this!

Gracie: I'm tired today

Zach: Is Half back in town?

Gracie: Heh, if he is, he hasn't called me

Zach: Sorry

Fingers pushes the rest of the doughnut towards Eyes.

Gracie: Go ahead, it's yours

Zach: Are you sure?

Gracie: Yeah, I know how much writers make a year, you can't afford another whole one

Zach: (Stuffing it in his mouth) True

Gracie: Besides, I just remembered something Jeremy said

There is a long pause.

Zach: And?

Gracie: Margarita men and double bacon cheeseburgers

Zach: WHAT?

Gracie: (Toying with him) You mean that DIDN'T make sense to you? - wow, Zach, you're losing your touch

Zach: But... wait a minute... I... HUH? - there's too much weird shit going on around this town, you don't need to add to it!

Gracie: My theory is that, one night, while we were sleeping, the ghost of Milton Bradley hovered over the entire Quartz County area, sneezed funky ectoplasm on us, and we all instantly became game pieces without our knowledge

Zach: Oddly enough, that DOES make sense - it would explain M&M's freakatude

Gracie: (Looking at her watch) Actually, I think this girl is an entirely different realm... she should be here soon

Zach: (Pensive expression) Hey Grace?

Gracie: What's that tone?

Zach: I've been wondering...

Gracie: Your father should have had that talk with you when you were 12

Zach: I'm being serious here - what if Morrigan shot that priest?

Gracie: Oh please, not you too?

Zach: Why, who else has been questioning it?

Gracie: Only every third person at the station - people are so easily swayed

Zach: Why aren't you?

Gracie: Zach, try to use your pea brain - what possible motive is there? - she's been here for less than a year

Zach: A lot could have happen during that time - a lot HAS happened

Gracie: Granted, trouble does seem to follow her around like a hungry stray but why would she go out and deliberately cause MORE for herself?

Zach: Maybe she feeds off of the drama?

Gracie: There are OTHER ways to create drama without offing a man of the cloth!

Zach: What if he put the moves on her?

Gracie: So what if he did? - she could have easily ended that situation with some harsh words or a sharp knee to the groin - not shredding the preacher's aorta with a hollowpoint

Zach: (Drumming his fingers on the table) I suppose

Gracie: Come on, if nothing else, she has covered countless crime scenes with her job and is the daughter of an LAPD detective

Zach: Commander

Gracie: High-ranking pig - you get the point - if she were to commit a crime, don't you think she'd be smarter in how she went about doing it?

Zach plays with his napkin and mulls over the statement.

Gracie: Hell, you and I could have come up with something better than what happened at St. B's - it was too clean, too easy - it is so obvious to anyone who dares look past the surface that she is being framed... of course, in today's world, no on ever does

Zach: That's what she WANTS us to think

Gracie: Dude, you have been watching X-Files for too long, give it up!

Zach: Someone wants to frame her WHY exactly?

Gracie: And you call yourself a journalist? - that is for us to figure out - I'd bet the house...

Zach: You don't have a house

Gracie: I'd bet the farm...

Zach: No farm, either

Gracie: I'd bet the rolling turd...

Zach: No one would ever take the KCON van as a bet

Gracie glares at him in silence.

Gracie: I'd bet my remaining eight fingers...

Zach: I'll take that bet!

Gracie: That it has something to do with the story she's currently working on

Zach: What is it?

Gracie: (Looking away) I don't know for sure

Zach: Well, that clears that up

Gracie: She said that she would get us involved when the situation became more "urgent"

Zach: (Folding his arms) URGENT? - she is about to get her ass hauled off to prison, I'd say that qualifies as urgent!

Gracie: One way or the other, we'll be involved

Zach: Am I supposed to read something into that statement?

Gracie: Morri knew she was going to get yanked at KCON, so she called me up to do a wipe of her hard drive before Turner and Kylee could get their paws on it

Zach: (Mouth open) DID YOU?

Gracie: Of course

Zach: JESUS, GRACIE, THAT'S TAMPERING WITH POSSIBLE EVIDENCE THEY COULD NAME YOU AS AN ACCOMPLICE

Gracie: SHHH, would you please keep your voice down?

Zach: No one heard, they're too blissed out on deep-fried fat and sugar

Gracie: No one saw me do it - I was careful

Zach: Let's hope so

Gracie: What concerns me is that someone else was going through her files before I got there

Zach: Probably Kylee or Turner

Gracie: No, Shepperton's perfume lingers for hours and Gates doesn't have the patience to crack an encryption code

Zach: Who, then?

Gracie: I'm keeping my eyes and ears open - at least I was able to make a copy of her story notes and I made a duplicate for me... just in case

Zach: Did you read them yet?

Gracie: (Sighing) Briefly skimmed

Zach: AND? - what is the story about

Gracie: I can't tell you... not yet

Zach: (Throwing his napkin in disgust) OH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

Gracie: Sorry, Zach, I made Morrigan a promise not to crash the party yet - besides, you will be involved soon enough, BELIEVE ME, but if too much comes out at once, things will get screwed up majorly for McBride... for all of us

Zach: Takanachi, I am stunned - you've known me for YEARS, you've known Morri for MONTHS - this is insane!

Gracie: (Soft voice) Look, I have to go with my gut on this and my gut says go with McB's plan - I can't explain to you why, you'll simply have to trust me

Zach: (Sour expression) Gracie, I don't want to see you get dragged down into her ever-growing quicksand pit

Gracie: We both have been sinking into this mess the minute she stepped foot into town

Zach: Why do I get the feeling it's not going to miraculously stabilize either?

Gracie: (Glancing out the window) I think I just saw her car, switch the subject!

Zach: (Smug) Well, I have been sitting on a little secret of my own - a Sig Seven secret involving our favorite warrior moon queen

Gracie: (Clasping her hands with joy) SHE'S BEING DEPORTED

Zach: Serbia is probably looking pretty damn good to her right about now - apparently, hubby Martel caught her with another man

Gracie: OOOH, WHO?

Zach: (Pulling at the corners of his eyes and donning an exaggerated accent) Ancient Chinese Secret

Gracie: (Smacking him on the arm) For the last time, I am JAPANESE you racist Jew bastard, now spill it!

Zach: (Evil grin) Someone you know

Gracie: Personally or professionally?

Zach: A little of both - it's someone you can't stand

Gracie: That's everybody, narrow it down!

Zach: Who was sporting a nasty shiner last night at Muldoon's and blamed it on "an errant volleyball smash?"

Gracie: (Grabbing the table) NOOOO

Zach: YEEEES

Gracie: NO WAY

Zach: YEAHUH

Gracie: (Making a disgusted faced) CAPTAIN CRUNCH?

Zach: It wasn't Count Chocula

Gracie: R'xal and Phelps... EEEEEEEEWWWW

Zach: I know the feeling - question is, do we put it up on our Sig7 website?

Gracie: Is it substantiated?

Zach: Judging by Old Man Martel's sudden broken wrist from a "polo accident," - I'd say OH YES

Gracie: Write it in obscure enough language to free us from potential lawsuits and I'll post it up there by tonight

Zach: Excellent, I'll e-mail it to you later

Wearing a dark trench coat, dark glasses, and a silk scarf over her head, Morrigan enters the doughnut shop and heads over to Zach and Gracie.

Zach: Do we hound you for your autograph or are you going to flash us?

Gracie: Shut it, Zach - how are you doing, Morri?

Morrigan: (Taking a seat) I'm a virtual prisoner in my own home - I can't concentrate enough to read but I did make an amazing discovery... more like two... first, TV really sucks - second, I know I'm getting old when I'd rather watch PBS over MTV

Gracie: Is anyone bothering you?

Morrigan: Only a dozen menacing messages on my machine so far, KJ's security team has kept neighbors from egging the house... oh, and Amy tells me it's a good day to play the lottery

Gracie: (Giving her friend a hug) I'm sorry

Zach: Did she tell you which numbers?

Gracie: (Scowling at Zach and then returning to Morrigan) Did you reach your dad?

Morrigan: He's in the South of France with Nancy and her sisters - I didn't want to bother them yet

Zach: Maybe you can fax them when they're strapping you into the electric chair?

Gracie: DAMMIT, ISAACSON, SHOW SOME COMPASSION

Zach: WHY? - I'M BEING KEPT OUT OF THIS LITTLE CLIQUE, WHY SHOULD I CARE?

Morrigan: CHILDREN, CHILDREN, PLEASE - I assume by your statement, Zachary, that Gracie let something slip

Morrigan kicks Takanachi under the table.

Morrigan: I want you to know that you will be brought in on this, I promise... but not now

Zach: (Pounding his fist down) WHY?

Morrigan: Because I know your competitive nature - you will be salivating to get this story to print and I just cannot take that chance!

Zach: (Sitting back in astonishment) YOU WANT TO OUT-SCOOP ME

Gracie: (Bopping him on the thigh) NO, IGNORAMUS, SHE WANTS TO SAVE YOUR FREAKING LIFE

Morrigan: This story goes beyond all of our journalism careers, not only are our lives at stake, all of the Santa Conchita Valley is at stake, the country... even the world

Zach: (Shaking his head) PLEASE - is this where the ominous music kicks in? - Gracie, you're the DJ, fire it up!

Morrigan: I really don't have time to debate this with you, Zach, it will all become exceedingly clear very soon - right now, I need you two to tell me everything you know about Joenne Mirabello

Zach: Does this include bedroom habits?

Morrigan: (Turning to Takanachi) Gracie, I need you to tell me everything you know about Joenne Mirabello

Gracie: Uh, I don't know all that much - she and her sister were born and raised here two steps above poverty - they love each other but never really got along too well - Justine was the brainy one while Joenne was always the wild one - she does temp work and studies dance... that's about it

Zach: Don't forget the PCP

Morrigan and Gracie: WHAT?

Zach: Crack and acid weren't enough for Joenne, she did some dust... until she was busted by the same cops she works for now - doncha love irony?

Morrigan: Go on

Zach: As a child, Justi was thrilled with some books and a microscope but Joey was always sullen - the "unaccompanied minor" on the airplane looking for a real family - at first, she found that family on the streets, but now, thankfully, she has a real sober family with her dance class

Morrigan: (Staring Zach in the eye) Can she be trusted?

Gracie: Why, is she a source?

Morrigan: (Still staring at Zach) CAN SHE BE TRUSTED?

Zach: (Shrugging his shoulders) I would trust Justine before her sister, I can't really say for sure

Gracie: IS JOENNE A SOURCE?

Morrigan: Maybe... or a significant complication - I've gotta go

Before Gracie and Zach can say anything further, Morrigan dashes out the door.

Gracie: (Gritting her teeth) DAMN

Zach: I think I need another doughnut!

Inside the Quartz County Coroner's Office, Justine Mirabello waits for her boss to leave on a golf outing. Once she knows it is safe, she sneaks into the high security cold storage area and retrieves the body of Father Greg.

Justine: (Wheeling it into the autopsy room) Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned... I lied to my supervisor about the real reason I was staying late - to check your hole-i-ness out - I have also taken the Lord's name in vain on multiple occasions, mostly concerning my sister, and have had daily carnal thoughts involving one Zachary Isaacson and a jar of extra chunky peanut butter

Over the next twenty minutes, Justine pokes and prods, taking notes on her observations.

Justine: (Into her mini recorder) The level of necrosis throughout the body is astonishing, especially for a seemingly healthy 41-year-old man

Justine takes some tissue and fluid samples, storing them in her backpack.

Justine: Why Father Greg, whomever did you get your liver from? - I have to do some more testing but I'm reasonably sure it's not going to match the rest of your body - in fact, I'm guessing it's several times older than your body, if it IS your body... now who needs to confess?

She struts over to a portable CD player and turns on Bruce Springsteen's "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and continues her examination.

Justine: (Stunned by her findings) This is not even irrational, it's more like "a-rational" - nothing makes the slightest bit of sense - this is beyond Tiki Bonfiglio bizarre

Before she can continue, she hears her boss' SUV pull into the parking lot.

Justine: (Panicked) HOLY SHIT, pardon me Father, he wasn't supposed to be back this soon!

Inside a small dance studio, Joenne Mirabello rehearses to Rage Against the Machine's version of "The Ghost of Tom Joad." As she finishes, she is startled to hear polite applause. She turns around to find Morrigan leaning against the entrance, watching.

Joenne: Why are you here?

Morrigan: It's time to trade stories, Ms. Mirabello

Joenne: I didn't call for this

Morrigan: (Approaching her) Well, I just did - shall we go somewhere?

Joenne: (Grabbing a towel) OK... since you want to play that way, we might as well go to the place in question

Morrigan: (Heading for her car) Let's dance!

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