The Other Me
Author: Lawrence Kelter
He had it all, fame, fortune, and . . . a very special fan. She knew everything about him, his accomplishments and his secrets. He comes to town for a convention, and when he steps into the spotlight . . . let's just say that it gets hot under the lights.
Available in .mobi for Kindle, .epub for NOOK and most other e-readers, and .pdf.
The Other Me
Lance Dale was in a great hurry and didn’t want to take the long trip back to his hotel room on the top floor of the Manhattan skyscraper. He customarily used the handicapped stall on those infrequent occasions when he was in dire need of a public restroom. It gave him room to spread out, and he liked the fact that the stall door wasn’t right up against his face. It was less frequently used, or so he assumed—so psychologically speaking the chances of catching something seemed lower. He covered the seat with a paper seat cover and multiple layers of toilet tissue but it did little to allay his neurotic fears because he’d heard that antibiotics effective against heinous forms of bacteria were falling by the wayside faster than flash-in-the-pan pop stars.
He was mature, accomplished, and now officially a Thrill Master, one of but a dozen or so highly-regarded authors with the tenure, pedigree, and popularity to have earned the coveted title. Thousands of fans had come to New York City to adore him and have him sign copies of the books they’d purchased. He was happy and full of scotch, a condition he found himself in more often than not, despite the fact that adulation and alcohol in combination, had contributed in large degree to his three failed marriages.
Fifty-three years old with almost as many best-selling novels in his catalogue—many of them were good, some great, and yes, a few clunkers but who didn’t have one or two of those. Regardless, they all debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestseller List. His most recent was his best effort in many years. It was entitled, The Sum of All Tears, a play on words and a plot filched from the Tom Clancy blockbuster with an initial print run of 650,000. It had fewer pages than his previous efforts but paid him the same glorious seven-figure advance that his previous, thicker books had earned him, an eye-opening concept he heartily embraced.
Most assumed that he was wealthy but with taxes, agent’s fees, an office with staff, a public relations manager, appearances, travel, and his three carnivorous ex-wives to support . . . He was now churning out two full books a year. Even so, the remunerations he received were barely enough to keep the three flesh-eating divorce attorneys at bay. His last national book tour had put him behind schedule on his next book and he could already feel the jaws of jurist prudence nipping at his fleshy white bottom.
He buckled his belt over his burgeoning gut and emerged from the stall. He washed his hands thoroughly and rinsed his mouth with tap water, all the while chuckling over the anecdotes he’d stolen from other authors over the years and peddled to the fans as his own. Taught in writing classes, we all have three lives, the public, the private, and the secret. His first two were a sham, false faces he wore like a veneer before his friends, family, and fans.
But his secret life . . . now that was really something, as was the woman waiting for him in her room. He’d met her at the signing table, a raven-haired beauty with a glorious southern drawl, who’d brought four of his books with her for him to sign. She was an intoxicating beauty, who bested even the most magnificent femme fatales who’d graced the pages of his books.
He’d greeted her with a modest smile, but in truth was more enthralled with her allure than she with his celebrity. He’d said, “Thanks for stopping by,” pretending not to be smitten with her model-quality good looks.
She fawned over him like the star-struck fan she seemed to be. “Thank God you’re still here,” she cooed. “The line was so long and I know you have an interview to give in a few minutes.”
“I’m here because you’re here.” He’d been down that path many times and had proffered his stock line dozens of times. It never lost its effectiveness and he never tired of seeing how well it worked on his fans.
His PR assistant was diligent and had taken the time to hand out Sticky Notes upon which each fan had written down the manner in which they wanted their book signed. Hers read: Jennifer-306. He looked up at her, curious about the sci-fi-ish name. “306?”
Her hand glided across the table, palm down, and when she lifted it, the swipe card to her room was left behind. “Three-O-six,” she whispered with a nod toward the card key.
He signed her four books rapidly, his pulse jumping so high that he misspelled his own name on the first title page. It wasn’t until he had signed all four and handed them back, that he slid the swipe card unobtrusively off the table into his pocket.
Her face was in his mind as he walked from the public restroom to the elevator, but more so, her hourglass figure in the clingy black dress and the adventure her offer hinted at. He wondered what she’d be wearing when she greeted him. Would she still be in the dress? A peignoir? Nude? The possibilities aroused him as the high-speed elevator made the short trip to the third floor. He’d had a lot to drink in the lobby bar, rubbing elbows with like-kind writers, who’d thoroughly stroked his massive ego—authors who were envious of his accomplishments and were hoping that their chance to be Thrill Master would not be far off.
He was still riding a pleasant buzz as he stepped from the elevator and walked the length of the corridor. He had already decided he’d order champagne to keep his pleasant alcohol-induced numbness going. Her room was at the end of the hallway, the very last one next to the supply closet. He remembered her as well-put-together but the low floor level and less-than-great room location prompted him to think that she was not a person of wealth. She’ll be grateful, he mused. Well, what the hell, he chuckled. Anything for a fan. She’d also conceded that she had done a bit of writing herself, which meant that she was looking for a leg up.
So was he.
Rapping lightly on the door, he waited for it to open. He heard the click of a light switch and then the door slowly opened. She was standing behind it, invisible in the darkness. She must be embarrassed to be seen letting me in. Maybe she’s married, he thought, unable to remember if she’d worn an engagement ring or a wedding band to the book signing. No woman wants to be labeled a slut.
The lure of the darkness intrigued him and beckoned him forward. In his mind he began to sow the seeds of a brand new thriller. He’d call it, The Fan, a cleverly veiled reproduction of Fatal Attraction, something he’d cobble together from the iconic film. If all went to plan, he’d be able to pen it quickly and get back on track with his writing schedule. It doesn’t get better than this, he thought, tawdry sex and inspiration all in the same breath. What could be better? The darkened chasm widened before him. As he stepped across the portal the chorus from “Iris” played softly in his mind. It was his naughty song, the one that turned him into someone else.
And I don't want the world to see me.
'Cause I don't think that they'd understand.
When everything's made to be broken,
I just want you to know who I am.
Lax Digler pointed at the man standing directly in front of him. “I want the Sicilian.”
Ralph Colombo looked down into the display case and shrugged. “You want a Sicilian? Are you ordering lunch or carrying out a hit?”
Digler had a loud, booming voice, a voice that reminded you of a sledgehammer striking rocks. “It’ll turn into a hit unless you get busy warming up that pizza for me. I’m starving. Throw in half a dozen garlic knots and a sausage stromboli too.” He walked over to the refrigerator case and pulled out a two-liter bottle of Pepsi, which he used to cool his neck.
“A little warm, Digler?”
“Been outside today?” he grunted. “It’s hotter than the inside of your pizza oven.”
“Ever consider losing the leather jacket?”
“My duster? Hell no,” he said vehemently objecting. It’s part of my je ne sais quoi.”
“My je ne sais quoi, you rube. It’s what makes me, me.”
“How about if what makes you, you, makes you dead from heat stroke?”
He unscrewed the top from the huge soda bottle and chugged down a third. “That’s what they got air-conditioning for.” He took a seat at one of the tables and continued to imbibe. “Great idea, huh? Add a little sugar and syrup to a penny’s worth of water and you turn a simple drink into a multibillion dollar industry.”
“You don’t have to add sugar. Bottled water is just as expensive.”
“That’s because people are stupid. They think spring water is better than tap water but the only difference is that tap water is contaminated with rat shit and spring water is contaminated with bear shit—six of one half a dozen of another.”
“Ah come on, Lax, you don’t really believe that do you?”
“Don’t matter what I believe. I’m a police detective. That’s proof in itself that I’m a moron.”