© 2011 Josh Amberpalm

I’m standing in my pocket and I’m slowly turning grey

It was one of those in-between nights, the kind of night when your coat is too warm, and when you take it off you shiver.  Everyone was smoking japanese cigarettes outside the coffee shop downstairs and the stink of jasmine and stale tobacco snaked in through my office window, sticking to my clothes, fogging up the mirror.  I flicked my own lighter, sparking the end of an ordinary american coffin nail, when she walked in.

The ass end of six’o’clock had high tailed it out of here, leaving me behind the same pile of old notes I used alternately as a placemat, an ashtray, or a life’s work. Celine, my gal friday, really more like my own personal Mother Theresa, had finally fretted her way down the stairs and off to her ‘kids’, Tabitha the siamese and Eddie, who was some kind of terrier.  She usually hung around until I closed up, no matter how I tried to chase her off; but tonight was the season finale of some reality show she was hooked on; the kind where a mean spirited  chef with a secret heart of gold alternately berated and nurtured a handful of crybaby masochists; chick crack, in other words. Some uber-father figure slot machine, doling out punishment and praise as unpredictable as a sniper with parkinson’s on a killing spree, that’s what the ladies like.

I exhaled a puff of smoke into a tumbler of bourbon; holding it up in the light to watch the poisons mingle.  I’ll tell you what, about these ‘reality’ shows, I’d tell you all the whats and whys; if I wasn’t under strict confidentiality.  Jack Booker, I’m hollywood’s dark secret, step into my office.

Like I was saying, it was late, on the clock and in the bottle, when the peacock dame in the designer dress and the foot high heels click-clacked her way through my door.

“We’re closed.”, I gave her the courtesy of a brisk grin, before busying myself with the continued contemplation of my whiskey and nothing cocktail.

She didn’t seem to hear me. “Jack Booker?”, she stood right up against my desk, towering over me in her impossibly high heels, with her impossibly perky breasts casting a shadow over my important placemat/ashtray/paperwork.

“That’s the name on the door.”

“Actually, the name on the door is Xiang Cho Dong, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place until I smelled the booze and the unwashed clothes.”, I didn’t have to look up, I could hear her smirk.

“So you know my reputation.”, I craned my neck to see past her assets.  “You’re what’s her name” I informed her, “you got passed up for an oscar a few years back.”

“Yes. Thank you. Now that we’re past the niceties, shall we get down to business?”.  She made herself comfortable, or as comfortable as anyone could be in that dress.  She sat down, anyway.

“You did hear me say we were closed.”, I reached into my desk and retrieved another glass, not too dirty, and made the offer.  She nodded, watched as I filled it with my bargain corn, and reached for it a little too quickly.  Something had this broad blanched.

“Mr. Booker…”

“Jack”

“Mr. Booker, I’m here because I’ve heard you’re the man that finds people.”

“That’s good, I was afraid you wanted to take me out dancing.”, I gave her an unnecessary wink, she had far to serious of a face on for my taste.  Cliche dictated that she flirt back, but she wasn’t having it.

“Three weeks ago, I was approached by this man with an offer for a reality show”, she slipped a business card out of somewhere and laid it on me. “I, of course, turned him down.”

I glanced at the card, ‘Jameson Minnow, Executive Producer, Big Fish Productions’, there was a logo embossed on the card, it looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it, “never heard of him.”, but she wasn’t done.

“He kept showing up places, trying to pitch me; parties, premieres, twice at my agent’s office, and once at my home.  I told him I’d call the cops, but he begged me to hear him out, and I, I don’t know, I guess I was curious.”

Me too, at this point; anyone with that kind of moxie probably did have a good stolen idea in his hip pocket. “So you got on board, and you need me to find you a cast.  I told you, I’m closed.”

“No, mr. booker, listen to me. I heard him out; it was ridiculous hackery, a half-formed mess that sounded, well, idiotic, I was about to have security throw him out, when he started talking about my sister, how she would be involved, and how he had the funding in place; but that’s when I lost it.”, I saw the fear, she wasn’t that good of an actress, it was genuine.  “Nobody in the business knows I have a sister, not even my agent knows my real last name.”

“So, you had your muscle rough him up, huh, what he tell ya?”

“It didn’t get that far.” She was about to crack, her teeth were clenched so tight i’m surprised her tits didn’t pop from the pressure. “I was about to have Paolo and Peytor escort him out, but he…” she composed herself, but there was something insincere there, years of scouting reality ‘talent’ had given my the eye to spot an actor trying to slip one by me. “After he left, Mr. Booker, I called my sister.  She didn’t answer.  No one has heard from her in days, and now, this Minnow guy, he’s gone too.”

“Sounds like you need a private detective, or the police, hell, the FBI handles this kind of thing. So I’ve heard.”, I flipped the Minnow card over and over in my fingers.  There was something about that logo I’d seen before.

“I can’t go to the police, or some private dick; I’d be better off letting a TMZ reporter move into my bedroom; I need someone that can keep… confidentiality, someone who knows the…” she said the word with contempt, “..industry.  And everyone says Jack Booker is the guy.”

I looked down at the card again, then up the deep cleft in her chest and into her glassy green eyes. I was being ribbed up for a hard screw, and not the good kind. I knew it, every stain in my shirt told me to let this one go; but I was on the nut, half a year behind on rent and over my lease, three months behind my car, and four on my apartment. What choice did I have, between my overdraft and her puffed up pout, I might as well have measured my own Chicago overcoat right there.

“You know my rate?”, her face got all christmas morning before I even finished the question.

“I believe so”, no wonder she was passed up for the oscar, this chick couldn’t play it cool if she were laid out on the slab with an icicle up her ass.  She unrolled the confidentiality agreement, we both bloodied our quills, and signed my death warrant.

“Now, I’m going to need to know that last name.”

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