“But I’m an entertainment reporter,” I protested. “I don’t cover crime scenes.”

“I know what you are,” snapped Sturlsson. “I sign your paychecks, remember? But this is a big deal, exactly the sort of thing I need to haul the paper out of red ink for the year, and it has an entertainment angle. So you’re on assignment with Baxter and Rodriguez. The address is in your email; I expect you there in 20 minutes.”

“Just…Steve, will you just do me the common goddamn courtesy of telling me what’s going on?”

Sturlsson made a noise halfway between a sign and a groan. “Okay, fine, whatever. You know Candon Verbridge?”

I knew him, all right. An auteur director, dozens of films under his belt, most with buckets of gore and loads of sex. Critics generally loved him because his movies weren’t cookie cutter products of a Hollywood that saw fit to stamp out two trilogies’ worth of Transformers. I hated him because I tended to faint at the sight of band-aid worthy cuts; my ex-girlfriend can fill you in on the sex part.

“Yeah,” I said. “His movies never make more than 30 million but I always get loads of hate mail when I pan them.”

“Some of your better work,” Sturlsson said with the air of delivering a magnanimous–if forced–compliment. “Controversy sells papers and generates clickthroughs. Anyway, Verbridge has a vacation home outside of town.”

“Candon Verbridge had a vacation home outside of town?” I cried, a little aghast that the director I panned might have been just a few miles away.

“Nobody knew, apparently. But they will soon.”

“Let me guess,” I said. “Someone burgled Verbridge’s cabin, he had to call the cops, and now that the secret’s out, you want me to talk to him while he’s still in shock.”

“Well, you can talk to him if you want,” said Sturlsson, “but I don’t expect he’ll answer. He’s dead. Murdered. Real bloody one by the sound of things, but I have an in with the sheriff and I need someone who knows what the hell he directed as part of the write-up. So you’re in.”

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