22 Aug 09

Star and Scribe, Chapter Ten

“At what point do I get to find out what we are doing?” Edmund asked. They were sitting in the least conspicuous vehicle they owned— a silver BMW 328i— parked in front of a drab apartment building in Atwater Village.

Jane shushed him. She refocused the binoculars she was holding and strained to look through them. He’d been asking question after question since they’d left the house three hours ago. Jane wondered why someone she usually had to prod into conversation was suddenly so curious. “What’s in the bag?” “Why won’t you tell me where I’m driving you?” “How come you’re making me wear this stupid beanie?” Whine whine whine, Jane thought.

“Seriously Jane–-” but he was cut off with a wave of her uninjured hand. He rolled his eyes, ran his fingers through his goatee and turned back to his PSP. He was glad he’d thought to bring it. It was the only thing keeping him calm. His main concern was keeping Jane from doing anything to make her injuries worse, and his mind was racing with plans to persuade her to go home.

“Can you make the screen less bright?” Jane hissed. Edmund shot her a withering glare and fumbled with the device, trying to remember if it even had a function for that. As he fumbled with it, he accidentally switched the console off and it slipped from his hands, falling under his seat. He reached to turn on the car’s overhead light, but Jane swatted his hand before he could.

“Very nice, thanks,” he snapped at her.

“No lights,” Jane reminded him for the thirteenth time and then ignored him for a moment. Edmund folded his arms and stared sullenly out the window, too grumpy to attempt sleeping through this ridiculousness.

“What time is it?” she whispered, unable to tear her eyes away from the binoculars.

“Four fifty-two sodding late to be driving around pulling teenage pranks,” Edmund grumbled, leaning forward to rest his forehead on the steering wheel. It was very late. This was a terrible idea. They had to work in the morning. He hadn’t spent more than a few minutes working on the script tonight. And the doctor had told Jane not to move around too much or her stitches would tear loose. This stupid escapade was the result of blood loss, painkillers, and Jane being far too accustomed to getting her own way. He lowered his voice to the tiniest whisper and tried one last time. “What are we doing here?”

“We are parked outside the apartment of David Christopher Williams,” she purred, finally ready to give up a detail. She had caught sight of a dark Volvo station wagon turning off of San Fernando Road and moving toward them.

“And who is that?” Edmund wanted to know. “Because that name sounds like he’s either a serial killer or a pop star you had a mad crush on in primary school.”

“That’s the tubby sack of crap that chased us from the salon earlier today. I figured he’d be getting home after all the awards parties right about now,” she said triumphantly, unable to tear her eyes away from the Volvo, which pulled into a carport not twenty feet from where they sat. “Probably the one night of the year I could be able to predict his schedule. We’re gonna get him.”

“He’s hardly worth it,” Edmund groaned flippantly, rubbing his temples. “Don’t forget they still have the death penalty for premeditated murder in California.”

“No, not that,” Jane snapped, annoyed that Edmund hadn’t caught on to her brilliant plan. “We’re going to give that stalker a taste of his own medicine. Him and as many other paparazzi that we can catch on film. I’d rather jet the . . . jerkface . . . that came after me tonight, but I don’t know who he is. But as far as I’m concerned they’re all the same. They all do this to us, so they can all be punished.”

Edmund was stunned. The idea was pure insanity. They’d be arrested, or worse, sued. But something about the idea seduced him in a matter of moments. Revenge. These bastards were the cockroaches of a career in Hollywood — you could never get rid of them, there were always more, and they would always come to infest your life in any way they could. To turn the tables . . . to see them squirm as unflattering photos were consumed by an eager public . . . to serve up the tiniest taste of the cruelty and humiliation that they inflicted on celebrities so that the public could smugly pity them and cope better with the fact that their lives would never be as glamorous or interesting . . .

“It’s insane,” Edmund gasped. “And brilliant. I can’t decide which.”

“Well, this one just got home,” Jane grinned, holding up a camera with a high-quality, low-light zoom lens attached to the front. “Want to go hunting?”

“Wha?” Edmund was baffled.

Jane silently opened her door. He suppressed a cry of objection and hurried to follow her. She turned and hissed “shush!” at him when he closed the coor with an audible slam. He trotted after her, beginning to rehearse what he would say to the cops when they got caught. Moments later, they were creeping along the wall of the apartment complex’s parking lot.

“I didn’t see which one he went into,” Edmund whispered nervously. He crouched awkwardly, clutching Jane’s supply bag. Stella, channeling her last action film, moved with stealth, holding the camera as if it were an Uzi. She whirled gracefully past a floodlight and retreated behind a hibiscus bush planted by the porch of apartment 21.

“It’s this one,” she mouthed as Edmund joined her, somewhat less noiselessly.

“How do you know?” he whispered, scurrying up beside her.

“Barb figured out which photo agency had the best information on me earlier today. When we got home tonight I looked up their staff directory, recognized his picture, and then I just googled him,” she shrugged, moving through the camera’s menu settings to switch the low light filter on and the flash off. “It’s totally creepy how easy it is to find out stuff about people online, even if they don’t have Wikipedia pages like us.”

“His address was online?”

Jane nodded. “I also know his cholesterol count, his high school GPA, and that he’s allergic to peanuts.”

Edmund’s jaw dropped.

She shrugged again. “I know, the Internet is totally creepy, right? And I don’t know crap about computers.” She leaned back and scanned the large window that opened into Williams’ living room. The lights were on.

“When did you think of this?”

“While they were stitching me up,” Jane whispered. “This is awesome. He lives in a corner apartment. That means more windows.”

“I must say, well done, Jane,” Edmund said admiringly. Jane’s instinct was to shush him again, but she quickly changed course and smiled in spite of herself, then gently raised a finger to her lips. She turned her back to the wall and rose slowly. She scooted silently up to the window, and turned ever so slightly to cast a momentary glance into the living room.

“What’s he doing?” Edmund whispered up to her. He didn’t dare to move from his spot unless it was necessary.

Jane looked annoyed. “Sitting on the couch,” she mouthed back to him. “Eating pudding.”

“Pudding?”

“Yeah, it looks like tapioca.”

“That’s . . . a bit boring, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Jane admitted, realizing that she hadn’t anticipated that her targets may not be cooperatively photogenic when she wanted them to be.

“Look, I’ll go back to that tree over there,” Edmund told her. “I can keep a better watch and I’ll wave to you if he does something.”

Jane nodded. Edmund stayed crouched and awkwardly moved across the lawn to the Jacaranda tree. Its branches had only tiny purple buds on it, and the slim trunk offered little chance for concealment. But no light fell directly toward the tree, and leaning up against it was better than simply standing in the middle of the lawn should the LAPD happen to patrol by. But his plan was to wait for a few minutes, tell her that their mark had finished his pudding and gone to bed, and persuade her to come back home. With any luck nobody would ever find out about this madness.

The two of them stood in silence for nearly ten minutes. Williams finished his pudding, and then reached for another container. He smacked and slurped at the spoon, his mouth hanging open as he ate. Watching the man eat was beginning to nauseate Edmund. But then Williams rose, grunted and moved over to the bathroom door. Edmund waved at Jane, who instantly snapped to attention.

“He’s gone to the toilet,” he called out to her.

“Shut up!” she hissed back, then waved at him to hustle around the corner of the building.

An air conditioning unit was placed against the wall, just underneath a window placed high on the wall.

“That’s got to be the bathroom,” Jane said, trying to remain calm amidst the hurry. “Get the video camera out of the bag.”

Edmund reached into the bag and produced a handheld digital recorder.

“Now climb up there,” she ordered Edmund. He looked at her incredulously. “I can’t,” she reminded him, indicating her arm.

Edmund stepped up onto the air conditioner. “Now what am I supposed to do?” he asked her.

“Look and see what he’s doing.”

Edmund folded his arms and stared at her. “Absolutely not.”

“Ed, come on. Just do it. Do you want to waste the trip over here?”

“He’s in the toilet. What do you think he’s doing?”

Jane gave him a stony stare. He turned, resigned, and leaned up against the wall. He raised himself on tip toe and looked through the window, which was wide open. He quickly retreated. Williams was facing the mirror, but a quick glance to his left and he would have spotted Hollywood’s top screenwriter playing Peeping Tom.

“Is he in there?” Jane mouthed at him. Edmund nodded. “Then film him,” she insisted.

Edmund puffed his cheeks out as he exhaled with exasperation. “This is stupid, Jane. We’re going to be arrested.”

“Not if you do it quick. Now go.”

He pinched he bridge of his nose for a moment, then raised up on his toes and hit record. Edmund attempted to brace himself so that he could leap down quickly in the very likely event that he should need to. The camera shook for a moment, but he forced his hand to steady to keep the camera from clattering against the window frame.

Williams was jiggling slightly as he stood in front of the mirror. He was humming to himself as he brushed his teeth. He scrubbed and spit, scrubbed and spit.

Boring, Edmund thought. Waste of time. Worst idea since I let my mates talk me into that pub crawl when we were at University.

And then Williams started to sing.

“If you want my body, and you think I’m sexy,” he grunted.

Edmund jolted to action, tightened his grip on the camera and zoomed in. The angle wasn’t ideal, as the small window was just for venting moisture and was placed high up toward the ceiling. But there wasn’t an insect screen, and the room was brightly lit. The large mirror above the sink provided a reflection that the lens wouldn’t otherwise capture.

“If you really need me just reach out and touch me, come on honey tell me so-hooooo,” Williams went on as he flossed his teeth. He kept singing as he removed his shirt, revealing several love handles and dense fur on his shoulderblades.

Edmund couldn’t believe his luck. He dared to push the camera just a bit farther into the window.

Williams kept singing as he popped out his contact lenses. And then he began to pick his nose. He dug deep as he continued to sing, flicking the boogers into the sink. Edmund gagged slightly, constricting his throat to avoid making a sound. But he held the camera steady. Williams continued to jiggle, pick, and flick as he danced.

And then, as Edmund adjusted the camera so that the lighting balanced perfectly, Williams dropped his trousers and sat on the toilet.

© 2009 Stella Quinn


Star and Scribe — a novel by Stella Quinn
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