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ONE COOL CHICK

Can one woman take on Hollywood when she finds her boss dead in bed and the killer blaming her?

ONE COOL CHICK

by Joe Reister © 2018

  

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1: The Texts

Chapter 2: The Riffraff

Chapter 3: The Nitty Gritty

Chapter 4: The Mess

Chapter 5: The Near Thing

Chapter 6: The Dirty Work

 


 

Chapter 1: The Texts

 

Typical.  Jen Alvarez thought, tossing her cell phone onto the passenger seat, and pulled her VW cc 300 into a long and crowded driveway, leading to a large house.  Of course you need to leave four cars at your girlfriend’s house, Jimmy.  I mean, it’s not like you don’t have any space at your Tudor mansion, your beach compound or any of the other fifteen properties you own, you, stupid, self-absorbed, tiny dicked prick.  She put on her practiced smile and hit the garage remote to see some kind of shiny yellow sports car parked in her regular spot.  Of course.  She thought, backing up to park at the end of the line of cars.  She shut off her car, looked up at the big house and picked up her phone, reading the last text again, smiling and then scrolling back to the beginning. 

May 9, 2016

Alejandra Jane:

I know you’ve missed the last three birthdays, but you could’ve at least called since you promised your ten-year-old nephew you’d be here.  Matt just kept watching the door all day and doesn’t understand, can’t understand, why you weren’t there and suck so much. 

Text Message 10:57 am

Texting is not for emotionally devastating statements, Alex.  It’s for quick short messages.

ME:

It’s called work, Alex, and don’t tell me he hasn’t figured it out with Eric getting so much over time.  I’m sorry.  I am, but my job is my job and you know that.  You used to work, remember? 

Text Message 10:59 am

Okay, so I’m a little hypocritical.

Alejandra Jane:

That’s cute, and you used to be part of the family.  Remember that?  Mom wants to talk to you.  Not by text, not by email and not by phone.  So, get it together and go actually see her for once.

Text Message 11:00 am

ME:

I’m glad to see you’re talking to Mom again.  Glad you can find the time as a stay at home mom. 

Text Message 11:03 am

Alejandra Jane:

I’m taking care of my kids, Jen.  Someday you might understand that. 

Text Message 11:03 am

ME:

And I work 24/7, Alex.  Something you used to understand, detective. 

Text Message 11:06

Alejandra:

And family is something you used to understand.  I’d be working if I Matt wasn’t ASD. 

Text Message 11:07 am

ME:

You worked until he went to school full time?!?  WTF.  Mom wants to help, and she could take care of Matt and Lily.  But she hasn’t told you that because you talk to her even less that I do. 

Text Message 11:11 am

Alejandra Jane:

You really think Mom’s up for that?  She’s had cancer.  Twice.

Text Message 11:11 am

ME:

And she got better, Alex, and Dad would help too. 

Text Message 11:13 am

Alejandra Jane:

Don’t get me started on Dad.  And I want to take care of my own kids. 

Text Message 11:13 am

ME:

That’s great and you’re lucky you can, but that doesn’t mean everyone can afford to, and that I can just drop everything for a party. 

Text Message 11:20 am

Alejandra Jane:

You didn’t even get Matt a present, Jen.

Text Message 11:21 am

ME:

Yes, I did.  It’s in my car.

Text Message 11:29 am

Jen turned to the back seat, seeing that the wrapped up football was still there.

Alejandra Jane:

It’s been three weeks.  You’ve never heard of mail. 

Text Message 11:30 am

ME:

I’ve had to work. 

11:41 am

Alejandra Jane:

Of course you did.  You always do.  That’s your excuse for everything, Jen, but you used to be better than that.  You’re smart, a hard worker and I thought you’d almost stopped making bad decisions. 

Text Message 11:41 am

ME:

Great.  Thanks. 

Text Message 11:45 am

Alejandra Jane:

You’re almost 3o. 

Text Message 11:45 am

ME:

You really want to do this by text? 

Text Message 11:45 am

I probably should have said that earlier.

Alejandra Jane:

No.  I really want you to come over, have dinner, eat the piece of cake Matt insisted we save you and then watch him open the present you got him. 

Text Message 11:46 am

ME:

Okay.  Well, thanks for talking to me like I’m twelve again and trying to figure out how to use a tampon.  Much appreciated.  Glad you’re not using your time and energy to mother your kids with all of that staying at home with them. 

Text Message 11:49 am

Alejandra Jane:

FU

Text Message 11:49

ME:

FU right back.

Text Message 11:50

Yeah, that was smart.  Curse at someone via text.  Where it can be saved and viewed forever, and see how it stops a conversation cold. 

May 12, 2016

ME:

I’m sorry, Alex.  I was a jerk.   

Text Message 10:45 am

ME:

Seriously, I’m really, really sorry.  I said something stupid, again, and let my temper get the best of me in the heat of the moment.  Totally my bad. 

Text Message 10:51 am

ME:

Please let me know how you’re doing?  Please. 

Text Message 10:52 am

ME:

Come on, Alex.  Please!!! 

Text Message 10:53 am

Now this is what texting is for.  Begging and apologizing so you don’t have to do it in person.

Alejandra Jane:

_____________ 

Text Message 10:53 am

And the slam dunk of silence.

ME:

Thanks…  Great…  Glad I tried…  See you at Thanksgiving…  Maybe. 

Text Message 10:54 am

June 1, 2016

ME:

Hey, I hope you, Eric and the kids are well.  Mom told me they were.  Life is good.  Working a lot still, but it’s paying off.  Caitlyn’s looking to get the film deal she wants. 

Text Message 10:51 am

And so my groveling begins.

ME:

It’s the first one since she got sober two years ago, and probably means I’ll get a much deserved raise.  And producers are also starting to know my name.  I think.  I hope.  It’s why I’m working so much. 

Text Message 10:51 am

June 2, 2016

ME:

How are you?  I finally went on a second date with Tyler and kissed him.  He seemed scared.  Great huh?  Good times.  Yay.

Text Message 10:45 am

June 3, 2016

ME:

Isn’t today your twelve-and-a-half-year anniversary?  Happy, happy.  In other good news I’m not pregnant, not that I need worry like you did every other month from 15 to 18.  Remember?  Okay, that’s only what I told some people.  But I’m not.  J

Text Message 10:57 am

June 7, 2016

ME:

Hey, Mom, Dad and I missed you for dinner last night, although understood you had a last minute thing.  They want us to have Thanksgiving together so they can go on a cruise or something. 

Text Message 10:51 am

ME:

They know that you visit Eric’s family then, but maybe can switch with X-Mas as I’m scheduled to go with Caitlyn for a work thing in late December.  Also, they want to see their grandkids. 

Text Message 10:52 am

ME:

Also, I’d like to see the kids.  I’ve got a collection of presents for them.  I can drop them off at your house when you’re not there if that’s easier.  Tell me what’s best for you.

Text Message 10:52 am

June 8, 2016

ME:

I know I should be a better sister, and I’m sorry.  I said something stupid and I was wrong.  Still it’s been almost a month and now you’re just being a bitch.  Can you knock it off?

Text Message 7:32 am

Alejandra Jane:

Can you watch your language?  I have kids around, remember?

Text Message 7:53 am

Jen smiled at that last text for the third time.  Great.  So, you know you’re a bitch too, she thought and got out of her car, looking at the big house and smiling.  “Too bad I have to go to work,” she said and pocketed her phone.


 

Chapter 2: The Riffraff

 

Jen scanned the two story, Spanish style villa and its expensive landscaping job before turning back to the front gate.  Everything looked normal and then she noticed the short, fat man in the thick glasses standing behind a tall, thin bush.  “Of course.”  She sighed.  “Jake.”

The man waved and stepped out from behind the bush.  “I thought the new coat would blend better.  It’s green.”

“I thought I told you to go away,” Jen said and thought, Meaning I know I told you to go away and never come back. 

“Everybody’s got to make a living, Jenny.”  Jake dropped the branch in his hand.

“Yeah, but you look like crap on a cracker.”  Jen pointed to another branch stuck on his shoulder.

“Thanks.”  He dropped the second branch.

“You’re welcome.  You know you’ve got rings under your eyes, need new clothes and should stop eating at Here N There all the time.”  She looked him over.  “Is this the life you expected when you were in college?”

“I didn’t like college.”  He backed up.  “And I’ve got a hot wife.”

“Yeah, you’re a real catch.”  She stepped up and shooed him toward the street.  “I know Caitlyn really appreciates you.”

“She didn’t mind when she was branching out.”

“Funny, and she had Mickey as a publicist then.”

“The mouse was part of her problem.  That’s why she liked me.”

“So, you’re a force for good, huh?”

“I can get people in magazines and you know it,” Jake said, heading for his car.  “We’re all cogs in the great Hollywood machine, Jenny.  Whether we’re cleaning up the A-listers puke and dirty underwear or catching the moments that define their lives.”

“Define their lives, Jake?  Is that what you think you do?”

“It pays the bills, Jenny.”  He turned to her with a look.  “I’d say we both get our hands dirty, no?”

Jen smiled her practiced smiled and handed him half a cup of coffee.  “It’s got three sugars, and I know you only like milk.”

“I’m diabetic.”  He swallowed most of it.  “I’m not supposed to have sugar.”

“You could have said, ‘no’.  I wouldn’t have been offended.”

“Have we met before?” Jake said with a gulp and held out the empty cup for her.  “Thanks.  I’ll enjoy the rush.”

Jen ignored the cup, looking up and down the street, and turned back to him.  “Nothing’s going on today, okay?  Caitlyn’s staying in all week, prepping for a movie.”

“Right.”  He looked over Jen’s head and stared at the villa again.  “She hasn’t been in anything in three years, Jenny, and now she’s got a movie deal?  Come on.  That’s not how it works.”

“Like you know.”

“I’ve been doing this for fifteen years, kid.”

“And always so charming, Jake.” 

“Thanks.  But if she’s off why are you here so early?”

“You work in Hollywood.  A personal assistant’s work is never done.”

“Right.”  He turned to Jen, giving her the once over and pointed to the line of cars in the driveway.  “And you wouldn’t say those cars, the Mercedes, the Tesla and the ’68 Cadillac belong to one Jimmy Roberts, boy actor turned teen rogue, turned into a massive, essentially criminal level asshole?”

“I wouldn’t,” Jen said straight faced. 

“Because that would violate whatever crazy non-disclosure agreement Caitlyn, ‘Cake’ Kelly made you sign when she hired you to pick her up, clean her up and make sure she appears to be living a better, more wholesome life, wouldn’t it, Jenny?”

She looked into his eyes with the practiced smile.

“That question a little too close to home, Jenny?”

“I hope you liked half of my morning coffee, Jake.”  She still smiled that smile.  “And I saw that you used that tip about Angelina that I gave you last week.”

“That’s one I owe you.”

“You owe me nine, Jake.  Nine.”  She took the empty coffee cup from him.  “Try not to leave any trash on the way out.”

“Sorry.”  Jake picked up an empty bag of chips on the lawn.

“Me too.”  Jen took it, handing him a napkin.  “I feel like we’ve been having a lot of these conversations lately.”

“Maybe you can tell me about that movie.”  He wiped his face and shoved the napkin in the dirty cup.  “And I’ll ignore Jimmy’s cars.”

“You’ll learn about it soon enough, but nothing’s happening today, okay?” Jen said.  “Everybody’s staying in bed.”

“At 8:00 on a Monday morning?” Jake said, his eyes following her back through the gate.  “Even Jimmy…”

“This is Hollywood, Jake.”  Jen didn’t look back.  “You should know better.”

“I do.”  He watched her walk, and then looked at the villa again.  “I thought you said she was working out.”

“We have our own gym, Jake, and Caitlyn’s rowing, working the core.”  She looked over her shoulder and pointed to his gut.  “Something you should be doing.”

“I don’t disagree.”  He rubbed his belly.  “My wife’s still hot, though.”

“What can’t money do, huh?”  She stopped and turned around.

Jake shrugged and looked himself over.

“Great.  Go home, get some sleep and be grateful for what you have,” Jen said with that smile.  “Say ‘hi’ to your kids when they get home from school for once.  They’ll appreciate it.”

“Real nice.”

“I’m trying.  But it’s not in my job description and I had a late night too.”

“Right.”  He reached into his pocket for his keys.  “Date, I hope?”

She nodded.

“Fun?”

“He wasn’t married.”

“Okay.”  He laughed, looking at the villa one last time.  “I’ll believe you.”

“You should.  I gave you coffee.”

“You did.”  He waved, turning to his car.  “Thanks.”

“Thank you, and have a good day.”  She kept her eyes on him until he got into his car.  “You sleazy, skeevy, bottom feeding turd who should get a real job.”

Chapter 3: The Nitty Gritty

 

“Okay, first problem down, ten to go,” Jen said, seeing Jake drive away, and turned to the line of expensive cars leading to the villa.  She sighed, picking up the three newspapers off the lawn and a bottle of milk on the side porch and smiling at her new blue and shiny Volkswagen at the end of that line.  “Remember that you paid for that with all the perks in cash, own a two-bedroom home in an up and coming neighborhood, helped pay for Mom’s last surgery and went to London and Paris for two weeks last year."

She waved to the three cameras on this side of the house and pointed to the edge of the property.  “I just took care of Jake Cooke.”  She waved to the cameras and nodded to the front gate.  “I don’t want to see another paparazzo or we’re getting another service.  And I don’t care if your head consultant bought me dinner last night.”

Nobody responded so she hit the gate remote, punched in the villa’s security code and turned to the barking brown mutt pushing the door open all the way with its nose.  “That’s right, Sam.”  She grabbed the dog in a hug.  “You’ll keep us safe.”

Ruff.  Ruff.  Ruff.  Ruff.

Sam gushed dog joy and collapsed to the floor where she took his face in her hands and petted down his back.  “I know.  I know.  We haven’t seen each other in 10 whole hours.”  She led him back into the house as she closed and locked the door behind her.  She waved to another camera as she walked into the pristine and well equipped kitchen, with a walk in and glassed doored freezer/refrigerator, two sterling ovens, an extra-large and actually used dishwasher, a giant sink that needed cleaning and a worn, top of the line coffee machine that started brewing on schedule.  “I wonder if the cameras are even on, Sam, and if so, is anyone watching?”

Ruff.  Ruff.  Ruff.

“Yeah, I agree.  They don’t want to lose Caitlyn’s contract and we don’t want to see any more paparazzi.”  She dropped her keys and wallet in a bowl by the side door, divided the newspapers into shelves on a desk in a nearly unseen corner and frowned at a stack of mail.  I thought she was going to look through that yesterday.

Ruff.  Ruff. 

“No, I’m not surprised either.”  She turned on a tablet.  “It’s why I get paid the big bucks.”

Ruff.

“No.  No more barking.”  She held a flat hand near his head.  Not that you ever get that from Caitlyn. 

The dog sat and looked up at her with big eyes and she reached into a box of treats on top of the desk.  He stared at her until she gave him one.  “You know that’s not cheap stuff.”

Ruff.  Ruff.  Ruff.  Ruff.

“Sam,” she said in a lower tone, and the dog clamped his mouth shut. 

She looked down at him, and he whined until she gave him another treat, and he bolted out of the room. 

“So easy,” she said and reached into the mostly empty refrigerator for the skim milk, grabbed two cups from a shelf and poured the coffee.  She added milk to one, and three sugars to both cups, stirring only the one with milk and then taking that cup back to the tablet.  She took a long sip as the email app came up while looking over the newspapers, snail mail and seven post it notes from last night.  Okay.  So all we need to do is make Caitlyn look Hollywood presentable to a slick haired, horny, narcissistic, self-focused, know nothing, insecure producer in a ridiculously priced, but well-tailored suit who has access to incredible amounts money and no decent or original ideas of his own.  Or at least I hope that’s all.  She scanned the new emails and ignored the fan club, trainer, publicist, manager and agent.  She smiled.  At least he’s prompt and professional.  She read the email confirming the 2:00 pm meeting.  “Cool.”

“Now, all I have to do is get Caitlyn out of bed, showered, made up, do her hair, polish her nails, review what this movie is about, catch her up on any real world events from today’s newspapers and then remind her who this producer is before she goes and charms the heck out of him, while hopefully still keeping his pants nice and loose.”

“Easy peasy.”  She sipped the coffee, enjoying the quiet moment until she looked up and nodded to the tall, straight backed, blond man walking into the kitchen and smiling at her. 

“Good morning, Ms. Alvarez,” the man said, and she gave him the dark and sweet cup of coffee.

“Good morning, Mr. Dawson.”  Jen clinked her cup against his.  “What’s the damage this morning?  From one P.A. to another.”

His eyebrows went up as he took a sip.  “You really want to know, Jennifer?”

“That’s what I get paid for, Scott.”  She took another sip of coffee as she stood up and headed for the sink.  “How are the two lovebirds?”

“Lovebirds?”

“It beats sex buddies, right?”  Jen rinsed a sponge.

“It does.”  Scott moved to the kitchen’s island, sitting on a stool.  “And probably hits the mark, knowing Jimmy.”

“Yeah, I know Jimmy.”  She wiped a spot on the counter.  “They’re still asleep?”

“Yes, but they were noisy last night.  Broke a lamp and dented a wall, I think.”

“Great.”  Jen grabbed the blender off the counter and put it in the sink.  “And so surprising.”

“I heard a loud ‘whomp’ around eleven, but it’s been quiet since then.”

“At least they waited until I went home.”  Jen gave him a look and filled the blender with water.  “Drugs?”

“I’m not sure.”  Scott shrugged.  “Jimmy likes his privacy.”

“So that’s a yes.”

“Rehab doesn’t work for everyone.”  Scott drank his coffee.

“And some people don’t help with the post rehab life.”  Jen added dish soap to the blender and shook her head.  “Caitlyn’s manager is going to love that.  She’s up for a major supporting role with a big named director.”

“How big?” Scott said.  “Abrams, Allen, Anderson...?”

“You giving me an alphabetized list, Einstein?”  She shut off the water and shrugged.  “Doesn’t matter, because I can’t say.”

“Come on.  My boss is fucking your boss and I read the internet.”

“Ever so reliable.”  She pointed to the second floor.  “So, all quiet after 11:00?”

“Just some take-out pizza and wine at 11:30.”

“For Jimmy?”  Jen grabbed the empty water pitcher from the fridge as Scott nodded.  “So, maybe the rehab stuck.”

“I hope so.  I like Cake.”

“Yeah, we’re trying to move back to Caitlyn.”  Jen filled up the pitcher and grabbed the sponge again.  “Mononyms are out of fashion.”

“They suggest that at rehab?”

“Among other things.”

“Like working with someone she’ll listen to?”

“Yeah, Scott, and like paying attention to other people.”  Jen noticed the dirty countertop and gave him a look.

“Like Abrams?”  Scott sipped coffee.  “Hell, I could work wonders with Abrams.”

“I doubt it.”  She put the pitcher back in the refrigerator.  “You have to have some talent.”

“Thanks.  How was your late night dinner with Troy?”

“Tyler, and smooth segue, stretch.”  Jen started to wipe down the filthy countertop.  “You’re a slob, you know that?  And the maid only comes in once a week now.”

“Mm hmm.  I’m married,” Scott said and shrugged.  “What was Tyler like?”

“I don’t know.  He’s a computer geek who Caitlyn set me up with.  He installed the new security system.”

“Is he watching right now?”

“Among other things.”  Jen smirked. 

“Cute.  Did he set up a new panic room?”

“He was a nice enough guy,” Jen said, not looking up from the countertop.

“Nice guys are the worst.”  Scott lifted up his cup as Jen wiped underneath it.

“Thanks,” Jen said.  “But I’m trying to date nicer guys.”

“That’s a mistake.”

“You said that last night.”

“Jennifer, they’re nice guys for a reason, and that reason is because they’re pushovers.  They’re never going to make the first move and you’re never going to be satisfied.”

“I think that’s mostly on me.”  She rinsed the sponge, and put it back near the sink.  “And I’m tired of having drunk assholes waiting a week to call me back, using me to meet my boss, or worse, giving me an engraved vibrator after we break up.”

“Nick?”  Scott laughed.

“Who else?”

“I’m happy to make the first move.”  She opened the dishwasher and glared at Scott.  “You could’ve run this.”

“Mm hmm,” Scott said.  “You making the first move with Troy?”

“Tyler, and I don’t know.”  Jen opened a drawer for a dishwashing capsule.  “We’ve kissed a few times, but…”

“Then he’s not worth it.”  Scott laughed again.  “Come on.  You’ve been on a few dates with him…”

“Three.”

“Forget about him.”  Scott shook his head.  “He’s a loser.”

“We’ll see.”

“You will.”  He looked right at her.  “And you don’t need a nice guy, Jennifer.  You need a good guy.  They have all the perks of not being assholes and they make the first move.”

“Really?”  Jen turned on the dishwasher.  “You would know?”

“How do you think I got married?”  He handed her his cup.  “Sorry.”

“Of course.”  She took the cup from him, opened the dishwasher and put it in.  “Who’s not going to say they’re a good guy?”

“My wife’s pretty happy even when I disagree with her.  So, something’s working.”

“Yeah, right.”  She noted the unswept floor.  “I’m not impressed.”

“I can live with that.  We’re not sleeping together.”

“Thank God for that.”  Jen grabbed a broom.

“You’ll get there.”

“I thought I already had.”  Jen looked up from the floor.

“Maybe, but I already had a two-year-old when I was thirty.”

“I’m twenty-nine, Scott.  You bought me a cake.”

“Sorry.  The point is I had a family when I was your age.”

“I’ve got plenty of family, and not much of it’s fun.”  Jen started sweeping.

“That’s because you didn’t make that family yourself, Jennifer.  There’s a difference.”

“Yeah, because you’re not bitching every day and getting fat.”

“Yes, I’m always busy and don’t have any time to myself.”  Scott smiled.  “But I’m happy and I have a purpose, Jennifer.  Do you?”

She gave him a look and picked up a dustpan.  “And working for Jimmy’s part of all of that, Scott?”

“No, not at all.”  He raised his wrist with the Rolex on it.  “It does pay for everything, though.”

“And Lori’s cool with that?”

“Depends on the day.”  He sighed.  “But yes, mostly.”

“Well, I hope she didn’t mind you watching the children last night.”  Jen looked up to the second floor. 

“I’ll let you know.”  Scott stood up.

“For the ride home.”  Jen filled another cup with more coffee and three sugars.  “You sound like you’ll need it.”

“Thanks, but I have to talk to Jimmy first.”  He took the cup.  “Make sure he’s all good.”

“Of course you do.  That’s our job.”  She poured two new cups and topped up hers.  “I’m going to wake them up.”

“Then I’m going to need your phone.”  Scott held out his hand.  “Just like every other time before, Jennifer.”

“It’s just coffee, as you so carefully pointed out, Scott.”  Jen stopped at the edge of the kitchen.

“Yes, but who knows what’s going on.”

“It’s not hard to imagine with just the two of them,” Jen said and gave him a big, exaggerated shrug.

“That’s what I tell myself.”  His hand still out.  “But I need the phone.”

“You know Jimmy and I slept together a few years ago when I did some work for his father.”  Jen didn’t move.  “What do you think I haven’t seen?”

“It’s not the seeing I’m worried about.”

“Anyone can go to the internet, Scott.”

“Yes, but those photos pre-date me working for him, and you know the policy.”  He waved his hand.  “Phone please.”

Jen came back into the kitchen and put down two of the coffees, pulling out her cell phone.  “You know, he was awesome the first time, terrifying the second and I faked my period to avoid a third.”

“You’re not the first to say that.”  Scott took her phone.  “Thanks.”

“Yeah, I’m kind of surprised they’re going on two months,” Jen said, rebalancing the coffees again.

“Me too.”  Scott looked at Jen’s screen photo.  “Nice looking kids.”

“My nephew and niece.”  Jen kept moving.  “They’re ten and seven.”

“It’s password protected right?”

“No, I missed a couple of calls that way.”  Jen looked back.  “So, don’t go through my stuff.”

“Embarrassing photos?”

“Of my family.” Jen laughed.  “Yeah.”

“You should still password protect it.”

“I shouldn’t have to worry if you’re the good guy you claim to be, Scott.”

“True.”  He nodded to the second floor.  “Send Jimmy down.”

“Like he’d listen.”

“I have to pick up my youngest at 11:00, and that includes traffic.”

“I’ll try.”  Jen started up the stairs, pausing for a moment.  What is that smell? she thought, wriggling her nose and shaking it off before she got to the top step and turned to the master bedroom.  She groaned at the cracked plaster in the hallway.  That’s going to cost at least a few hundred bucks, at least, and that doesn’t include the broken lamp Scott mentioned.

She hesitated at the door, putting down the coffees on a table in the hallway and then knocked.  How big is this mess going to be? she thought, putting on her practiced smile, and opened the door.


 

Chapter 4: The Mess

 

Yeah, that’s a shock, Jen thought, sipping her coffee and noting the linens, pillows, books, alarm clock, dirty clothes, clean clothes, newspaper, tablet, open bottle of wine, empty pizza box and eight pizza crusts strewn across the floor and around the room.  “Lots of sound and fury signifying nothing,” she said with her practiced smile.  “And now I’ve used Shakespeare on the job.  Yay, high school English.”

She put down her coffee and grabbed the two full cups on the hall table as she noted Caitlyn curled up naked on the bed and the sounds of the shower from the bathroom.  She put down one coffee on the dresser near the bathroom and the other on the night stand next to Caitlyn, before covering her with a blanket and smoothing it out.  She gave the mess another look, and then put the linens and pillows on the bed, grabbed the pizza box and started picking up the crusts and wine bottle.  She left them out in the hall and then started scooping the dirty clothes into the hamper hidden in the corner of the room.  

“You waking up, Cathy?” Jen said, thinking, That’s right.  I used your family name.  Just like your mom.  Because this is a big day.  And we have to get ready to kick butt.  No matter how much fun you had last night.

Caitlyn did not move a muscle.

“I’m glad you had a good time, but we have to get up soon, hon,” Jen said, putting the tablet on the dresser and gathering up the books.  “Thanks for giving me last night off, though.  I used it to see Tyler, our blue eyed security consultant, on a third date, and no, nothing happened.”  She sorted the clean clothes.

“He did take me to a nice dinner with drinks and was a gentleman, understanding that I really did have to get up early this morning.”  She started folding.  “But I’m thinking nice guys might not be for me.”  She smiled.  “Yeah, he asked a lot of questions and actually listened pretty well, but I wasn’t feeling it.  Nothing.  Nada de amor, ni el sexo.  He was just there, which is surprising since you were right that he’s actually good looking and that we do have similar tastes.”

She turned to the bathroom door as the shower shut off, and then looked back at Caitlyn.  The coffee was still on the night stand and she hadn’t moved an inch. 

“Caitlyn, get up and drink some coffee so we can get the day started.”  Jen’s eyes narrowed on her.  “Remember we have that lunch with Daniel later today.  You know, about the movie.”

But Caitlyn didn’t move, so Jen started toward the bed, listening, but not hearing anything except Jimmy rummaging around in the bathroom. 

“Caitlyn, hey.”  Jen patted the woman gently on the hip, leaving her hand there and rubbing her side.  “It’s time to get up.”  She sat on the bed and felt the woman’s head.  It was cold.  Really cold.

She blinked and looked right at Caitlyn, now noticing the open and unmoving eyes before rolling her onto her back and pulling off the blanket.  “No.”  She ignored the nakedness and swallowed hard, putting her ear over Caitlyn’s heart, but hearing nothing for half a minute.  “Shit,” she said in a whisper and blinked harder, taking in one deep breath.  Then another.  And then caught her breath and wiped her face.  She looked at Caitlyn again with widening eyes.  “Shit.”  She saw a giant purple and black bruise on the side of her head and started to breath faster.  She blinked again.  “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit.”

An electric razor started up and Jen jumped, turning to the bathroom.  She breathed in and noticed a new teddy bear that hadn’t been there yesterday, staring at her with weird glass eyes.  She turned back to the bathroom, then Caitlyn and then the teddy bear again.

“So, someone saw this and called the cops?” she said, noting the 8:13 on the alarm clock and remembering that she had shooed away the paparazzo fifteen minutes ago.  “Or not.”

Jen turned to the buzzing in the bathroom and blinked yet again.  “Shit.”  She turned to the rest of the room.  Half of it was still a mess, but she’d straightened up the other half.  Screw me for doing my job, she thought as she stepped forward, but then stopped.  “Scott,” she said quietly and looked to the first floor before turning back to the bathroom door.

Jimmy is a complete asshole, but Scott is a good guy, former army Ranger or something and does right by those he likes, and he likes me, she thought, standing in the bedroom doorway.  But he works for Jimmy.  Shit.  And Jimmy’s dealt with this kind of thing before with Scott’s help.  Shit.  And that means I am still grade A screwed.

“Shit.”  She looked back at the dirty clothes in the hamper and the clean clothes folded on top of the dresser right next to the second coffee. 

Okay.  Think.  Not like Hollywood or TV, but like high school, where everyone is a devious bitch or conniving shit who would rat out their friends in a heartbeat to avoid trouble.  She took in a deep breath, holding it, and closed her eyes.  Like when I borrowed Alex’s clothes and didn’t want her to find out. 

She opened her eyes and breathed again when the razor buzz stopped for a second.  “Ow,” she heard from the bathroom. 

“God damn it,” Jimmy said but then the buzzing started again.

Jen frowned.  He did this and now he’s getting all cleaned up to tell his side of the story, she thought, looking around the room.  He’ll make it look like an accident, blame the recovering party girl/fame whore, and the police will probably believe him.  The shit. 

She stared at the mess she had cleaned up and shook her head.  It’s not the same.  She straightened up and sniffed the air again.  He’ll notice things are off.  He’s an asshole, not an idiot.  He’ll remember something or notice the smell of coffee.  Or Scott’ll tell him I came upstairs or whatever.  It doesn’t matter.  He’ll know.”

She looked around the room again, focusing on the teddy bear camera.  She waved and pointed to Caitlyn’s body and the bathroom when the buzzing stopped again.  She turned to the closet door and then back to the body.  Thank you for being so paranoid, Caitlyn.  She pulled up the covers tightly around her and gave her a hug, holding her for a moment and wiping her tears.  “You were better than anyone knew.” 

She wiped her face and then stood up, walking quickly across the room and opening the door to the walk-in closet and the mountain of clothes in it.  She shut the door behind her and made a path through the clothes as she heard the bathroom door open.

“Caitlyn, I had a great night,” she heard Jimmy say, coming out of the bathroom.  “Well, you know, except for the end.”

You fuck, she thought.

“I mean…  Look, I’m sorry you got your head slammed into the wall, what, three times?  But you didn’t listen, did you?  Not even after the warning.” Jimmy said, and Jen reached out to the back of the closet wall.  “I mean I did tell you about the butt stuff and cocaine and what happens to me, right?”

Her fingers grazed a tiny edge in the wall. 

“It’s really too bad, honey.  You know.  Because I really thought we had something good, right?” Jimmy said and stopped for a moment.

Crap he’s noticed.

“I also thought you were naked when I went to shower, Cake, and looking at the world with big dead eyes,” Jimmy said, and Jen heard him pick up the coffee cup, taking a sip.  “Jenny?”

She poked her fingers into the edge, wriggling them in deeper.

“Jennnnnny?” Jimmy said more loudly, and she heard him walking around the room.   He knocked over something, probably a lamp, and it crashed on the floor.  “I’m not an idiot, honey.  I know you were here.”  He laughed as something else crashed to the floor.  “You’re the only one in this house who makes good coffee, cleans up compulsively or who would tuck in Caitlyn in some kind of creepy rest-in-piece gesture.”

She ignored him and pried open the closet’s hidden door.

“Jenny, Jenny, Jenny,” she heard, louder each time.  “Obviously, Cake had an accident, and I need your help cleaning it up.”  He knocked over something else.  “We need to make this right, Jenny.  Come on.”

She squeezed through the door.

“Okay, you’re not going to be helpful, and I understand that, but it’s just going to make things harder for you,” she heard, and the closet door opened.  “Scott.”’

She closed the secret door and bolted it shut.

“Scott,” she heard Jimmy yell.  “Code red.  Code red.” 

Chapter 5: The Near Thing

 

Jen and Jimmy both stood still and listened.

What is a code red? she thought. 

Then Jimmy walked into the closet and started tearing things apart, knocking over racks of clothes, throwing aside stacks of shoes and tearing down rows of accessories. 

“Scott, God damn it,” he said, screaming.  “Fucking code red.  Fucking code red.” 

It can’t be good, Jen thought from the other side of the wall as Jimmy slammed a rack against it.  He’s even crazier than when I slept with him three years ago, and he was super crazy then.

“Jimmy, what’s going on?” Jen heard Scott say.  “Jimmy?”

She turned to the small panic room that Caitlyn started installing last week, looking at the row of video monitors on a desk in front of her and seeing the mess Jimmy made in the closet and Scott’s narrowing eyes. 

“Jimmy,” Scott said.

Jimmy finally noticed him.  “Scott.”  He breathed hard.  “We have a code red.”

“Okay.  Where’s Jennifer?” Scott said, turning to the bedroom.  “Is that Caitlyn?”

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Jimmy said and started throwing clothes around again.  “And yes.  She’s the code red.”

“What?” Jen said.

“Jesus, Jimmy?” Scott said and shut the bedroom door, looking around the entire room.  “What the hell?”

“It was an accident.”

“Again?”

“You need to do something, Scott,” Jimmy said, yelling and throwing more clothes out of the closet.  “Jennifer was here.  She brought us coffee and now she’s gone.”

“That’s her job.”  Scott noticed the coffee and folded clean clothes.

“And this is your job, God damn it.”  Jimmy walked back into the bedroom.  “She didn’t go downstairs did she?”

“No.”

“So where is she?”

Scott stared at Caitlyn’s body, looked around the room again and then under the bed.

“What the fuck, Scott.  Come on.  Do your thing.”

Yes, Scott.  Jen watched on the monitors as Scott looked in the bathroom.  Do the right thing.

“It’s what I’m paying you for.”  Jimmy got into Scott’s face.  “Do your God damn, fucking magic.”

“Jimmy,” Scott said, rechecking the bedroom and putting his hand on Jimmy’s shoulder.  “Do you mind?  I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night and I need to think.”

“Yes.  There you are, buddy.  The magic is coming out.”

“Thanks,” Scott said and pulled out Jen’s cell phone from his jacket pocket and then a small black box with three antennae.  “It’s a good thing I hadn’t left, Jimmy.”

“I’m blessed, Scott, by your devotion and your boy scout preparedness.”

“Right.”  Scott fiddled with the black box. 

“Shit.”  Jen knocked aside a keyboard and pushed over a lamp before grabbing the cell phone on the edge of the desk.

“Blink and radio silence,” Jimmy said as Scott turned on the black box.  “Best investment I ever made.”

“It’s scary that I have to carry one of these around, Jimmy.”

“Son of a bitch,” Jen said, yelling, as she heard nothing but silence on the phone.  “I told her to get a land line up here.”

Scott and Jimmy turned to the closet and Jen’s muffled voice. 

“And I believe in miracles, Scott,” Jimmy said, returning to the closet and pushing aside the rest of the clothes to see its back wall.  “Didn’t Caitlyn say something about a panic room last week?”

“Yes.”  Scott walked past Jimmy to look at the closet’s back wall.

“Okay.”  Jen watched them feel the wall just like she did three minutes ago.  “I need to be somewhere else.”

She dropped the phone and looked around the small room, seeing the videos and computers, a baseball bat, a case of protein bars and two cases of water.  Where do you go the bathroom? she thought, looking around and seeing a box with a toilet lid cover.  Great.  Then she noticed the thumb drive on the side of the computer.  She pulled it out and the video screens blinked.

“That’s right, Caitlyn.  You didn’t want anyone to see more naked photos of you again so only Horizon Security can open this,” Jen said out loud and pocketed the drive, looking around the room again.  “At least it’s a start.”

A loud bang came from the door and she looked at the monitor to see Scott and Jimmy pounding on the closet wall/secret door.

Jen knew it wouldn’t hold.  Scott and Jimmy had forever to break open the door since she was trapped in here and the phone didn’t work.  They wouldn’t stop until they broke it down.  You were a mediocre date, and you install a worse security system, Tyler, she thought, and started looking around the room for a third time.  There used to be a window right there.

The pounding on the door got louder.

Crap.  They found something heavier.  Jen picked up the baseball bat and headed to where the window used to be.  She tapped the wall with her hand and smiled.  Hollow.  Her eyes went wide and she shook her head.  Jesus, I hope someone sues the shit out of them.

She grabbed the bat with both hands and pulled it all the way back, waiting for the next hit on the door.

Bang.

Scott looked up from his banging on the door, and Jen hit the wall again.

Bang.

“She’s trying to get out,” Jimmy said.

“No kidding.”  Scott pulled back on a metal baton, hitting the wall again.

“Why do you have that retractable billy club again?”

“Because not everybody loves you like I do, Jimmy.”  Scott gave him a look.  “And because I never know when I’ll have to break through a door to scare a woman who’s causing you trouble.”

“I hope Jenny’s scared.”

“Great.”  Scott managed to bend the door inward to see the locking mechanism.  “What is this, the third time, Jimmy?”

“It’s going to buy you another house, Scott,” Jimmy said, yelling again.  “So, cut the crap, and...”

“Right.”  Scott jammed the tip of the baton into the now exposed locking mechanism and shoved it in as hard as he could.  “Well, we better hope that they didn’t install a land line in there.”

“Based on that door I don’t think we have much to worry about.”  Jimmy laughed as Scott started to leverage it open.  “Although let’s hope Jenny doesn’t have a gun on the other side.”

“What?”  Scott stopped and looked right at Jimmy.  “Cake owns a gun?”

“Yes, that bitch owned a gun.  Two I think.”

“You think?”

“Caitlyn liked to shoot.”  Jimmy shrugged.  “And in case you didn’t notice it’s quiet on the other side, right?  I doubt Jenny’s giving up.”

“I doubt it too.”  Scott pulled out a pistol from his jacket.

“What don’t you have in there, Scott?” Jimmy said with a smile.

Scott ignored him and raised the pistol, kicking open the door.

The two men stared at the video monitors, seeing themselves and the rest of the villa, inside and out.

“Where is she?” Jimmy said, stepping behind Scott.  “Do you think she’s got that gun?”

“Only since you brought it up.”  Scott squinted into the panic room.  “What crappy security.”

“Yes, but what did you expect, buddy?  Caitlyn hasn’t worked in three years.”

Scott sighed, but kept his focus in front of him, stepping inside the room and seeing the computer and another monitor that flashed, ‘Warning.  Recording stopped.  Please install a new storage device.  Warning.  Recording stopped.’

“That sounds about right,” Scott said, already heading for the stairs.

“Fuck.”  Jimmy turned to the breeze blowing in the hole in the wall.  “Fuck, fuck, fuck, Scott.  She got away.  Fuck.”


 

Chapter 6: The Dirty Work

 

That’s right, asshole.  I got away, Jen thought and picked herself up from the bushes surrounding the villa.  Just barely, but…  She stopped, hearing Scott barrel down the stairs, and turned to the south side of the house to see her beautifully close and too far away car at the end of the drive way.  It’s the first place they’ll go, and my keys are in a bowl near the locked, side door.  A loud bang came from that side of the house and she took off in the other direction.

“Please, please, please live up to your stereotype, Jake.  Show me how little faith and trust paparazzi have in humanity, and how strong your work ethic is by returning to try to catch a shot of Caitlyn and Jimmy Roberts going at it.”  She scanned the yard and the bushes.  “I will not only kiss you on the mouth and anywhere else you want.  I will also give you the scoop of a lifetime because any and every confidentiality agreement is now out the door.”

She ducked under a bush, seeing Scott run to the front gate and chase away some teenage girls, but no paparazzi.  He’ll circle around, she thought and turned, staring at the back fence, and then looked beyond it.

“No.”  She shook her head seeing a house in the distance.  “No, not in a million years.”  She turned back to the front of the villa.  “Not again.  He’s an asshole and I said I would never speak to him again.”

She heard the teenage girls yell and turned back to the front gate, Scott now outside it.  She frowned and looked at that house in the distance again, taking a step forward when another teenage girl came around the corner.  “Shit.”  She pulled back a fist.

The teenage girl’s face dropped.  “I’m sorry,” she said, looking at Jen with wide eyes.  “I’m sorry.  I just wanted to see Cake and say, ‘hi,’ and some crazy looking blond guy came out and chased my friends away.”

Jen blinked and lowered her fist as the girl’s wide eyes narrowed and her face turned into a giant smile. 

“You’re Jenny Alvarez, Caitlyn Kelly’s personal assistant for the last two years and five months.  You were in Cake’s People profile two years ago.  She called you her rock: a real life saver, smarter than a big sister and a better cook than her mother.”

“Okay.”  Jen pulled the girl along with her as she started for the back yard.  “It’s all right.  You’re not the first person to trespass.  Not even today and…”

“And you’re wearing the leather jacket that Cake had on at the People’s Choice Awards.”  The girl touched Jen’s arm, rubbing the sleeve between her fingers.  “It looks and feels even better than I...”

“Thanks.”  Jen checked over her shoulder as she walked faster. 

“Is Cake here?  Can I say ‘hi’ to her?”

“I’m afraid she left early this morning for a shoot.”  Jen frowned at the house in the distance.

“Is it with JJ Abrams.  I heard…”

“She snuck out the back door to the avoid the paparazzi…”

“We saw you chase that guy off.”  The girl nodded.  “It worked because he didn’t come back.”

That’s too bad, Jen thought, noticing that the girl was about her height with similar hair color, and stopped.  She looked her right in the eye.  “What’s your name, honey?”

“Tammy.  Tammy Rosenberg.  I’m from Short Hills, New Jersey, but my school’s out here for a trip, and I’m sorry, and I’m so happy you’re not mad at me…”

“I know, and I’m sure Caitlyn would have been happy to see you and your friends.  You’re the reason she is who she is and does what she does.”

“She was so good in ‘The Truth,’” Tammy said with a big nod.

“She was, and I’m sorry she’s not here to say ‘hi’.”  Jen glanced over her shoulder again, and took off her jacket.  She pulled out the cigarettes and lighter in it.  “But you know what?  To make up for it, why don’t you take my coat?”

“Oh my God,” Tammy said, her face nearly exploding.  “Oh my God.  Oh my God.  Oh my God. 

“I was just borrowing it until the Goodwill Truck came tomorrow.”  Jen slipped it on Tammy.  “And it’s cold this morning, you know?”

Tammy trembled as she hugged the coat around her.

“You look good in it.”  Jen gave Tammy the once over.  “The problem is that blond guy, Scott, is head of security, and he’s just doing his job, you know, but he isn’t a big fan of fans if you know what I mean.”

“Right.  I read about that in People too.”

You did? Jen thought, but nodded.  “I’ll tell Caitlyn, I mean Cake, you were here, Tammy.  She’ll be happy you like the jacket so much.”

“Oh, thank you.  Thank you, thank you so much.”  Tammy hugged Jen, wrapping her arms around her.  “You are the best.  Better than an older sister.”

“Thanks.”  Jen heard the faint, but definite sound of sirens.  “I’m a good cook too.”

“I bet.”  Tammy let go of Jen, hearing the sirens, and turned to the front of the house.  “Oh my God, I can’t get arrested again.”

Again, Jen thought, and pointed toward her car.  “The easiest way out is to the right along the driveway.  You want to make sure Scott doesn’t see you or he’ll have a fit, but you need to get out of here right now.”

“Okay.  Thanks.”  Tammy looked at the driveway and then turned back to Jen.  “You are the best.”

“You too, Tammy.”  Jen looked at the jacket one last time.  “And remember to stay away from Scott.  Run if you have to.”

“Right.”  Tammy headed straight for the driveway.

And I’m going to do the same thing, Jen thought, looking at the house in the distance again and leaping up to the six-foot fence, pulling herself up and over it, and then falling into a mud puddle on the other side.

“Great,” she said, wiping her face off and darting to an intricate playset built like a pirate ship in the neighbor’s backyard.  She slipped in beneath a slide and nodded.  Yay, school, she thought, remembering that the neighbors had three kids under twelve who bugged Caitlyn with their noise.  She peeked at the seemingly empty ranch house in front of her, moved to the front of the ship, then pushed carefully through the swings. 

She glanced at the back fence and then ran to a small grove of palm trees, hiding between them and taking in the house again.  Catching her breath, she heard the cop cars pull up in front of Caitlyn’s villa. 

That means everything’s hit the fan.  Scott or Jimmy beat me to the punch and called the cops.  So, they or the cops will soon find Tammy who will tell them that I was just in the backyard, and now I’m not.  The cops will circle the block to try and find me.  So, I have to get out of here before Jimmy, Scott and Jimmy’s legal team throw me under the bus for Caitlyn’s murder.  She fingered the thumb drive and started for the neighbor’s house, walking past it and to the street.  She kept going straight across to the next house and walked through their open front gate and into their back yard.  I have to keep the drive out of Jimmy’s hands until I can figure out how to get Horizon Security to read it, and that means I have to run for at least a little while.

She came to another fence and looked for the house in the distance that was just a little closer.  “Crap,” she said and climbed it, stumbling at the top for a moment, but successfully avoided falling this time.  She stayed low and skulked in between the bushes of the next neighbor’s backyard, keeping her eyes out for people and listening for police, kids and anybody else making noise. 

More sirens blared nearby, but Jen ignored them and hit the next fence.  She grabbed it and put one foot up, hauling herself to the top and rolled over it to land crouching on the other side.  Just like with Debbie and Teddy when old man Enrique chased after us when we rang his door bell, she thought and looked down to see her shoes sink into the mud.  Probably got that dirty when was I was nine too.  She sighed.  So I better get used to it. 

She started forward. 

“Let’s hope Scott is having as much fun.”  She looked at the house in the distance that was just a little bit closer and shook her head.  “Son of a bitch.  I promised myself I would never see Nick again.”

 

***

Of course the adventure continues.

Read how Jen faces down Scott and Jimmy, ends up owing a crime lord a favor and learns that Hollywood is more venal, vile and vengeful than anything she could have imagined all while looking good.

Just email Joe at joe@joestories.com and he will get the rest of One Cool Chick to you.

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