V-Wars

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— 1 —

NYPD 6th Precinct

October 12, 4:55 p.m.

One Day before the V-Event

“Was it your blood?”

The prisoner shook his head.

“Please speak up,” asked the interviewer behind the glass. “Remember, we’re taping this.”

“No.”

“No it — ?”

“No, it wasn’t my f**king blood. Christ, if I’d bled that much do you think I could run all that way? I’d have been passed out. I’d have been …”

“Go on.”

The prisoner shook his head. Dead was not a word he wanted to use.

The interviewer said, “Do you remember running through the streets?”

“No.” A pause. “I don’t know. A little, maybe. I kind of remember it. Lot of shit’s all tangled up in my head.”

“Do you know why you were na**d?”

“I’m … not sure.”

“Do you remember where you left your clothes?”

“The cops asked me the same questions. I told them all this …”

“I’m not a cop,” said the interviewer.

“You’re working for them.”

“With them.”

“Whatever, man. I still told the cops. They have all of this.”

“I would still like you to tell me.”

“Why? They just want to lock me up and throw away the frigging key.”

“They probably do.”

The prisoner turned his head sharply and stared through the one-way glass. “What?”

“The police probably do want to lock you up,” agreed the interviewer. “But as I said, I’m not the police.”

“Then why are you asking me the same questions, man? What do you want?”

“I want to understand.”

“Understand what?”

“You.”

The prisoner laughed. It was short, bitter and ugly. “Me? What’s to understand? I don’t understand what happened. I don’t remember what happened.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” said the interviewer. “I think you do remember. And I think you want to tell someone about it. You want to understand it, just as I want to understand it.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes,” said the interviewer, “you do.”

The prisoner looked at the mirrored surface of the reinforced window that separated him from the voice. “Then why don’t you come in here and talk to me face-to-face.”

“No,” said the interviewer, “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Why not?”

“Why do you think?”

The prisoner made a sound. Low and guttural. Possibly a grunt of anger or disgust, possibly a laugh. Possibly a sob.

“Why do you think I won’t come in there?” prompted the interviewer.

“Because you’re afraid of me.”

“Yes,” said the interviewer. “That’s right.”

After a pause, the prisoner said, “You should be.”

“I know.”

— 2 —

Starbucks -72 Grove St, West Village, NY

September 29, 12:25 p.m.

Fourteen Days before the V-Event

It was junk.

Pure goddamn junk.

Michael Fayne wanted to throw the script across the room. He wanted to pour lighter fluid on it and watch it burn.

Film that, he thought bitterly. That would at least be entertainment.

He glared at the script on the table. Couldn’t really burn the frigging thing. Wouldn’t be the best and most profitable use of the last five minutes of his break. The customers — those sheep — would freak. Even the regulars who were zombieing their way through the same kind of no-future, no-exit jobs as him. A flaming movie script sailing over the counter would push them dangerously close to actual reaction and interaction with the world, and you can’t have that.

Fayne studied the line of caffeine addicts lined up at the counter, eyeing them with contempt. A little excitement would do them all good. Even a doctor would tell them that, but they would hate him for it.

And he needed the frigging tips.

Balls.

Besides, half of them probably had scripts like this one in their briefcases or backpacks. They were too busy ordering absurdly expensive and complicated coffee drinks because it made them feel better about reading the same kind of scripts for third-rate basic cable or direct-to-Netflix pieces of crap. No way they’d tear open a packet ofcompassion for anyone else. They’d think he was over-reacting and over-acting because his POS script was anywhere near as bad as their POS scripts.

He felt eyes on him and cut a sideways look to see two girls at the next table whispering to one another and stealing glances at him. They were cute. Early twenty-something, which was probably too young for him according to his driver’s license but not according to his face. Fayne knew that he could still pass for twenty-six or -eight.

The girls were cute. The blonde had a few pounds on her, but most of it was grouped nicely. The brunette was borderline Goth. Thin, lots of eye makeup, too much weird jewelry, but Fayne knew the type. Emotionally damaged chicks like that were savages in the sack. Maybe a little clingy next day, but they could go at it all night.

He weighed his choices. He could give them the smile that he’d gotten by pretty much buying his dentist a new yacht. But that was overkill, and Fayne didn’t think he needed to work that hard with either of these gals. Or he could give the half-smile that he wore on his head shot. Bit of Clint Eastwood from back when he used to be on the other side of the camera. Bit of Colin Farrell. A lot of Nathan Fillian. Chicks wanted to undress when they saw him do that.

So he did that one.

They both turned red and nearly collided heads as they instantly bent close to whisper.

Fayne turned away, but only enough to look like he wasn’t looking.

The girls kept trying to catch a better look at the title of the script, which told him they were at least smart enough to know that it was a script.

Fayne set his coffee cup down on the top page of the script, obscuring the title.

Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III.

Yeah, that would get him laid.

Not only was it a piece of crap, it was the third piece of crap in a series. They actually made two of these things already. The first one had enough of a pocket-change budget to get the guy who played the guy on that episode of Stargate. What was his frigging name? He was the one who went onto do that reality show about guys who used to play guys in shows like Stargate.

Fayne’s phone did not so much as ring for that one. His agent didn’t send an email for Slothtopus one. Or two. Which didn’t even have that guy in it. No, for that one they used the guy who was on one episode of the soap that got canceled. He played a bartender and had something like two lines. Something like, “Last call, ladies.” The kind of line Shakespeare got famous for writing. Stuff that gave David Mamet wood. That was the guy they got for the second flick. Fayne’s phone didn’t ring then, either.

No, his phone rang when they were getting ready to shoot number three. Three, which in any video series was a short step down from midget p**n and a short step up from infomercials.

Welcome to Hollywood.

Welcome to bright lights, big cities, guest shots on Jon Stewart and all the first class ass you can handle.

Yeah, welcome to an economy plane ticket back to Newark and a day job spilling coffee in Manhattan. Welcome to crap roles that, sure, paid a bill, but at the same time dug his career a little deeper into a landfill.

The two girls were giggling. He had to admit that they were hot. That was about the only perk there was to working a job like this. Hot chicks drank a lot of coffee. They drank fraps and lattes, and cappuccinos and mocha-god-damn-chinos, and anything else that sounded like it was something elegant people actually drank in Europe. Fayne had been to Europe. In Europe people drank f**king coffee, but you couldn’t tell people that.

He eyed the girls who were still trying to read something off the top page of the script. Fayne casually tossed his cell phone atop the script to hide the name of the screenwriter. That clown was a hack anyway. Did mostly movie tie-in novels and stuff like Slothtopus, probably to feed a crack habit or pay alimony. Fayne couldn’t believe that the writer did this kind of stuff out of artistic vision.

Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III.

Three, for God’s sake.

Four years ago he would have been the guy they called for the first one.

Seven years ago he would have been in a better movie because eight years ago he was in a better movie. Since then he should have been in a string of better movies. But his agent had sent him the wrong script, and to make it worse, Fayne had liked the script.

Frightbook.

Christ.

Frightbook sounded great. He got the script the same day The Social Network hit theaters. Shooting started the week before the Oscars. It was a can’t-fail retro slasher flick that tapped the vein of social media. Even had some themes borrowed from the Craigslist Killer case. The tagline was “Facebook with Bite.”

That was all over Twitter.

Good cast, too. Not great. No A or B listers, but serious character actors. The broad who used to be on CSI. The old fart from that John Carpenter flick. The kid who used to be a Mouseketeer before she grew tits and stopped bringing her common sense with her to parties. Classic — classic — ass. Eye-hurtingly perfect.

Except …

The Mouseketeer had too many key lines in the script; one too many pivotal scenes which absolutely depended on her to at least minimally — what was the word? Oh, yeah … act.

Which she could not frigging do.

She was so bad she couldn’t even act like a bad actress.

Which no one expected. She was Disney trained, and say what you like about the Mouse House, they were the Gestapo when it came to training their talent. She had two Daytime Emmys for the love of Zeus. The girl should have been able to handle the part in her sleep. It wasn’t Gertrude from Hamlet. All she had to do was act the part of a scared, pretty ingénue who showed her knockers and ran screaming from the guy with the knife.

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