Category Archives: Book Excerpt

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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Six

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic thinks he’s found the Cannes Film Festival killer. 2,626 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Five. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Ingrid Bjorge stretched across the hotel bed, then opened her eyes. “Good morning. I did not know you were here,” she said as she propped herself up.

“You were asleep when I came in last night. I didn’t want to wake you.” Ryan claimed.

Just as the Norwegian actress opened the room door, Ryan’s girlfriend Delisha nearly collided with her as the fashion model leaned forward to knock. She carried a bottle of Cristal and an envelope addressed to Ryan that was left for him at the front desk.

Ryan gestured toward Ingrid. “Does she look familiar to you?”

Delisha stared at Ingrid for a long second, then gazed at her from a side angle. She pointed to the window. “Look out in that direction with your chin tilted up. Look real serious.” Ingrid followed her direction, angling her head and gazing off with a blank expression.

Delisha clasped her hands. “It’s crazy. Is it true? Is it true?”

“Yes,” Ryan answered.

Delisha embraced Ingrid. “Oh, my God, the star of The Ice Princess. What is going on?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Ryan said. “Delisha, you can’t tell anyone in the meantime about Ingrid’s being alive. Not a word.”

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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Five

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic gets a gorgeous surprise at the Cannes Film Festival. 2,590 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Six tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


In the days since Ingrid Bjorge’s death, the entire Norwegian nation had taken the slain actress to its heart. The Ice Princess starlet’s murder when she and her film were supposed to open the first night of the Cannes Film Festival was a countrywide shock. Now her body would arrive on the ferry in a few minutes, then be carried by Viking pallbearers to the pyre.

The Bygdoy Peninsula is the untrammeled part of Norway’s capital city, the area with the museums and the Viking burial mounds. With its aggressive environmental protection laws, the Norwegian nation had kept it largely off limits to developers. An editorial in that morning’s Dagbladet acknowledged the irony of having the multibillionaire oil developer Gunnar Severeid, the mogul behind her movie, using it for the site of Ingrid’s funeral.

Following the autopsy, she had been transported back to her homeland on Gunnar’s personal plane, a Gulfstream G650. Her ashes had been placed earlier that morning in a magnificent oak coffin in Oslo. On this day of national mourning, Norway’s crown prince Harald had delivered a moving eulogy at the Ibsen Theater in Kungs Gate Park.

Erik Bjorge, the costume designer of The Ice Princess and Ingrid’s one-time husband, had gotten little sleep in the last several days. The Cannes police had grilled him, and, even more vexing, Gunnar had questioned him aggressively about the evening of the murder. With his fashion line positioned for the entire world to see at the premiere of The Ice Princess, Erik had believed he would be the Versace of Norway, the Gucci of the fjords. Now that dream was gone. Most of his clothing creations were still on a shipping vessel back in the Cannes harbor. He never bothered to unload it after Ingrid was killed. Instead, he went back to Oslo for her funeral.

Considering that Ryan had been up for several nights, found not one but two corpses, been chased through Cannes by what he thought were cops, had delivered an impromptu speech before a packed room of journalists, Ryan wasn’t too worse for wear. He recalled that Sean Connery line from the third Indiana Jones, where Harrison Ford is whizzing along on a motorcycle with his dad clinging on the back for dear life. “This is not archeology,” Connery groused as Indy accelerated away from the bad guys.

“This is not film criticism,” Ryan muttered to himself.

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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Four

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic is a suspect in a second murder at the Cannes Film Festival. 2,903 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Five tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


There were enough security guards to stock an island dictatorship. Instead of colorful uniforms with feathered hats, gaudy medals and polished swords, they wore Armani tuxedos. The crack unit stood at attention in front of the mansion gate for the Cannes Film Festival’s elegant party. Despite their disciplined pose, their eyes were riveted on Ryan’s model girlfriend Delisha.

Within seconds, an attendant pulled up with a gleaming Aston Martin V12 bestowed on Ryan for the long drive back to town and belonging to one of the movie producer-distributors. At least half the valet parkers rushed to help Delisha into the passenger side. She slid into the classic vehicle. “Allons y,” Delisha called out, bestowing a celebratory wave.

Ryan idled the car as the iron gates snapped open with crisp precision, spreading their steel in a deferential backward swoop, like an old-fashioned servant. Only then did Ryan punch the pedal and sail through the estate’s stone entrance.

Delisha clasped his hand. “Home, James.”

“Bond, James Bond,” Ryan called out in his best 007 accent.

Delisha giggled and planted a quick kiss on his neck. For the moment, Ryan felt like the glamorous super-agent. The trouble was: he didn’t really know how to work a shift. Maybe, if it was all downhill, they could continue in this gear.

“You’re grinding. You’ve got to let it out,” Delisha said.

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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Three

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood movie critic, no longer a murder suspect, tries to cover the Cannes Film Festival. 2,640 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


When the Hollywood New Times chief film reporter swooped out of the elevator, he nearly ran down the trade’s top film critic, Ryan Hackbert.  “You haven’t returned any of my messages,” Stan Peck said as he came through the entrance to the Hotel Savoy. ”I’d like to get your side of the story.” Peck pulled out a digital recorder and flicked the switch.

“My side of the story is nothing,” Ryan answered. “The police asked me in for questioning and were satisfied with my answers. I know nothing about the murder.”

Ryan quickened his step. Peck clicked off the tape and said unhappily, “You know it’s ironic that you, a member of the press, aren’t talking to me, another member of the press.”

“I’m a very ironic guy. You can quote me on that.”

“Seriously, you were hauled in. You said in your review that she should be strangled.”

“I criticized the dialogue. A new editor mangled it with the scarf thing. The police understood,” Ryan answered.

"This murder of yours is screwing up my Cannes coverage," Peck continued. "I’ve got to go to this stupid press conference about it when I should be having breakfast with the TriCoast people. They’re going to announce a new slate." Peck paused to twist the knife a little deeper. "But a lot of people out there still think you’re guilty. That you killed that blond actress from The Ice Princess at the Carlton."

Despite the momentary high of jerking Peck around, Ryan was pissed at himself for giving Peck between-the-lines hints about the police interrogation. As much as Ryan hated to admitt, Peck reflected a fair amount of what would be movie industry opinion, as berserk as that could be. By doing nothing, Ryan was screwing up everyone’s Cannes Film Festival including his own. This was his eleventh time here. He needed to get back into his normal festival mode.

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Keep Santa Monica Clean 2

Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

Dante flexes his power as both a screenwriter and a blogger. 2,950 words. Part One. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Creeping over the Century City skyscrapers, the sun’s harsh rays bathe my 1966 Ford Mustang as I take the 10 from Santa Monica towards Robertson. Ray-Bans I’ve owned since my first week in L..A shield my eyes from the glare and the breeze rushes over the windshield, tousling my already unkempt hair. If this cinematic moment was captured on 35 mm film, it would appear liberating, a sun-drenched endorsement of SoCal living. Nothing could be further from the truth. Under the crushing weight of the CO2 hovering above the L.A. Basin, this drive couldn’t be more claustrophobic and suffocating. As I light up a cigarette, combining the air pollution with tobacco and nicotine may seem like overkill, but I am nothing if not the author of my own story.

I turn west on Wilshire and, in the space of ten minutes, I reach the STA offices. I ride the elevator to the eighth floor and take a seat across the desk from my agent, Dave Chaikin.

“I love this fucking script, Dante!” he yells, slamming a closed fist on the desk between each word, a poor man’s Ari Gold in a rich man’s Armani Collezioni suit. Once upon a time, Dave was a fledgling literary agent in search of the screenplay that would make him a major player. Dave would have me believe the moment he read Galaxy Hoppers, my 120-page tome, it was love at first sight. He created enough buzz that there was a bidding war and then sold it to Global Studio Media.

Now, I stare at my latest screenplay on his desk, the one I’ve affectionately named Skylar And The Ninja Ghosts, as Dave asks, “I have to know, after all this fucking time, what compelled you to finally put pen to paper again?”

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Keep Santa Monica Clean
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A mid-career screenwriter has more fun at his secret avocation. 2,169 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Orson Welles said that, depending where you choose to conclude it, any story can have a happy ending.

My story began the night I met Grace Chase in Cabana in Santa Monica, California.

The sun was living out its final moments, painting the sky gold, and a Pacific breeze flowed through the open-air bar. Hours removed from my first screenplay sale, I spied a beautiful blonde through a haze of tobacco. The strings of “At Last” by Etta James swelled into a crescendo of anticipation as our eyes met and she flirtatiously exhaled a stream of cigarette smoke, compelling me to navigate the swarm of guys that divided us.

“Grace,” she opened.

“Dante.”

If my Hollywood story had faded to black at that moment, as the smoke cleared and I gazed into Grace’s eyes, it would have had a happy ending.

Alas, shit happens, as it is wont to do, and four years, three weeks, and two days later, a naked brunette is lying in my bed, screaming, “Choke me! Choke the fucking life out of me!”

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Sundown At Sundance
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A noted film critic arrives for what he expects to be just another Sundance Film Festival. 2,544 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Are you going to Shoot Mom?”

Ryan pulled off his headset and glanced up from his airline seat. A guy in a blue Cubs cap hovered over him.

A stewardess came forward, looking alarmed.

Shoot Mom — are you going to the screening?” the Chicago baseball fan repeated.

“Sir, you’ll have to sit down,” the stewardess commanded. “The warning light is on.”

The guy retreated back down the aisle. Ryan Cromwell settled back into his seat. He turned to the woman next to him who’d been watching the incident unfold.

“Sorry about that. Occupational hazard,” he said.

“You must be in a dangerous profession,” she said. “Homeland Security?”

Ryan smiled: “No, more dangerous. I’m a film critic.”

He was one of Hollywood’s chief film critics, headed to Salt Lake City from L.A. for the Sundance Film Festival. His reviews of independent film could make or break the pictures as well as launch or end careers. They were especially important at an indie film festival like Sundance where the discovery of new talent was the paramount focus. Ryan’s film reviews at previous fests had helped catapult first-time filmmakers such as Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Justin Lowe (Better Luck Tomorrow), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and many other rookies. January was his favorite time of year because he was reviewing films that were not just vampire, zombie, special-effects and franchise movies that were critic-proof and, in Ryan’s view, brain resistant.

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Cain And Abel
Part Three

by Daniel Weizmann

The Nash Bros either thrive or merely survive their appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! 2,119 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fans and cheerleaders: Do you ever marvel at how they share our world? Incredible to think that while most of us live our humdrum lives, they are out there — the superstars — mythical, rolling, unhinged. And why do they do it? They do it so we don’t have to.

Marky and Sean met on the lot and rode to Kimmel’s in a Lincoln stretch. Marky felt cooler than he had all day. Plus, he acted kinder. He asked Sean, “Hey, man, you gonna do that patriot missile gag with Kimmel, the thing with the somersault?”

Sean was humbler. “I don’t want to hog up all the space.”

“No, bro. It’s a good bit. Do your thing.”

And then it happened so fast. They were whisked through the Green Room and pancaked, and led out on the air. The band played a brass version of the pair’s biggest hit to date, “Girl You’re The 1 (For Me, For Me)”. Kimmel’s audience ran a little older but they still went ape-shit when the Nash Bros crossed the stage. Jimmy did a little mock shock at the amplitude of the girly screams. The familiar tingle of stage energy dueled with Marky’s waning inner heat. Then there was a third Marky, a phantom in the wings: watching, sober, attentive. But every smile was in place, as Kimmel stood up to fist-five them with both hands as the horns blasted big ending punches.

The crowd would not stop screaming.

“Will you calm down?” Kimmel finally admonished, setting off another wave.

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Cain And Abel
Part Two

by Daniel Weizmann

One of two brothers hosting a hit TV show can’t accept that they no longer have equal roles. 2,679 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Fan Club members: It is you that keep the dream alive. And that is why you must know that there was no formal ritual between the brothers. They rehearsed at noon five days a week, talked on the phone four to thirty times a day, met their press agent every other Thursday, and socially were almost inseparable. Even the many girls they took out, they did so in pairs, occasionally shooting each other a deeply knowing look mid-date to signal the switching of seats and intentions. Sean rented his own place in the Los Feliz Hills to be nearer the Burbank studio and liked to sleep late. Marky bought athree-bedroom oceanfront condo in Manhattan Beach, which was a good investment and, besides, what was the point in being a pop star if you weren’t going to live on the beach?

After dinner at Mom’s, Sean headed home to get some beauty rest before the big television interview. Marky, on the other hand, hopped in the Benz and was heading for his beach pad, intending to catch some Zs as well, when he remembered that it was Sunday, and that meant poker night at the shared apartment of Tom and Shanahan, his old high school pals. Marky was already in the old neighborhood, so he skipped the freeway onramp and maneuvered into the parking lot of the Hawthorne Arms, ready for action. He walked the dank stairwell to Tom and Shanahan’s second floor pad, and held his pop-star-ness in check. He lapsed into a joke fantasy, rare but recurring, that he was not and had never been in showbiz. Sean’s bro — the tax accountant. Or Sean’s bro — the sportswriter. If only he had been too fat, early balding like their Old Man.

“Dude!” Shanahan called out. “Total surprise.”

“Yo!” Tom said, his back to them, pulling a twelve-ouncer of Olde English Malt Liquor out of the fridge. “Do I hear Marky?”

“The man arriveth!”

Marky shrugged, then sat in the breakfast nook with the five neighborhood buffoons in Old Navy duds and hand-me-downs, some sporting baseball caps on their $20 haircuts. The homies looked happy but tired. Marky feigned a “long, hard day,” too.

“What’s up, superstar?” Tom said, high-fiving.

“Dude,” Kev said, cracking a beer, “aren’t you on Kimmel tomorrow night?”

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Cain And Abel
Part One

by Daniel Weizmann

Two brothers have a hit TV comedy-variety show – and a less successful relationship. 2,271 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Dear Fan Club Members: They say these things don’t happen overnight. But they kinda do. The fun began at three in the afternoon in Hanger One right on the Fox Lot when 21-year-old heartthrob Marky Nash sat on the edge of the newly reconstructed stage thumbing tweets to the base on his iPhone to tell us that Season Two is coming. After a breakneck rehearsal sched, he was psyched to get back to where he belonged: the spotlight. Behind Marky sat his blond baby bro, 19-year-old Sean Nash with his feet up looking all sanguine ‘n’ shit. That’s when the Producer and the Other Producer — whose names we can never remember! — huddled with the Bros. One Producer was older, tall, skinny, full of jagged grey competence in white sneakers. The Other Producer was husky in a Dodger’s cap and Cal State t-shirt, looking like a disgruntled dirtbiker.

It was lecture time as the stage crew slid gels into the footlights and wheeled the giant behemoth TV cams into place.

“This,” the Producer said, “is our moment.”

“And you boys have what it takes to answer the bell,” the Other Producer added.

“You are already stars,” the Producer said. “Don’t believe us? Google yourselves.”

“But Season Two is a major test,” the Other Producer said.

“For everybody,” his partner added. “Not just you guys.”

“And I don’t have to tell you we have competition,” the Other Producer said. At this, the two men paused, arms akimbo, Old Jew and Junior Jew, staring down the Nash Bros for dramatic effect.

“Meno?” Sean asked, sitting up.

The Producer said, “Meno Dalmucci’s variety dogshit debuts day after tomorrow in prime time opposite you guys.”

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Actress Bathing Girl 3

Bathing & The Single Girl
Part One

by Christine Elise McCarthy

The life of an actress isn’t all glamour, money, sex. Often it’s about humiliation. 2,029 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


So one morning later in the month, I was again facing the relentless onslaught of overdue bills. And once again, I faced an unpayable mortgage. I managed to stretch a few paltry residuals and my unemployment benefits to cover my cell bill, utilities and the minimum payments on my credit card balances. It struck me that “balance” was an interesting word to call mounting debt. What would they call it once it came tumbling down all around me? Bankruptcy, I guessed. Foreclosure.

My chest began its now-too-familiar objection to thoughts of financial matters and squeezed in on itself while my heart sped to a dangerous pace. I tried some exercises to prevent the stroke that I was certain was coming, but I couldn’t even get air to fill my lungs let alone the deep breaths I’d been taught in yoga classes. I was becoming light-headed.

Then the phone rang. It was my agent, Kim.

“Hi, Ruby, good news! I have an audition for you. It’s a new show. Something about cops with ESP versus vampire teens. It’s actually called Sexy Dicks With ESP Vs. Gangster Vampire Teens.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“It’s a Mentalist/Sopranos/Twilight hybrid with amazing buzz. You’re lucky I was able to get you in.”

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American Asshole
Part Two

by Pasha Adam

The Hollywood wannabe must decide between his normal life or dream career. 3,036 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Tyler Price’s film premiere party was everything you’d expect a Hollywood party to be. Ostentatious, superficial, and wholly divorced from reality. It was also the first time I’ve truly felt like I belong, at home among the eclectic mix of narcissists, overachievers, and millionaires you can only find in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, it was as far removed from my actual home as you can get within the confines of middle class America.

Twelve hours after the party, Alana and I boarded our plane and traded our luxurious, all-expenses-paid Hollywood weekend for the dryer, browner, more barren pastures of Bumfuck, Arizona.

I wake up bleary-eyed, lying next to Alana in our bed. I barely slept last night, haunted by regrets and mourning a bountiful life that not only could have been, but should have been.

Quietly sliding out of bed, I stumble across the bedroom, a bubble world oasis crafted by me to escape the trappings of reality. Combining our shared love of acting and music, my passion for pop culture and Alana’s obsession with celebrities, our apartment doubles as a shrine to the entertainment industry. Careful not to step on a pile of my Nip/Tuck, Californication, and Entourage DVDs, I enter the living room and embark on a dedicated morning ritual that dates back to our first month in Arizona. Press-ups, sit-ups, protein shakes, flossing, omelets, moisturizing, multi-vitamins, Propecia, and hair styling are capped off with a healthy sixty seconds spent admiring and critiquing my appearance in a full-length mirror.

A crisp tailored black shirt, fitted jeans, Rolex, and polarized Oliver Peoples sunglasses complete my uniform. I take pride in the fact no one here dresses like me. I dress the way I wish the world was, to show the world what it can be.

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American Asshole
Part One

by Pasha Adam

A Hollywood wannabe in love is jealous of a famous, charming, successful actor. 2,262 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


My girlfriend’s hand tightens around mine in excitement, cutting off all circulation until my fingers are numb. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my fucking God!” she squeals. “It’s him!”

From our pool bed in the Tropicana Pool Cafe of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, Alana points frantically. I follow her line of vision until I see what she sees. Beyond the cocktail waiters and the Hollywood elite stands the man of the hour: MTV Movie Award winner Tyler Price.

When I was no more than eight years old, my mom asked me, “What do you want to be when you’re older?” As questions go it was relatively innocuous, yet has remained etched into my subconscious ever since.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged.

To this day I have no idea why she asked me that question or why it seemed so important to her. Maybe the years spent floundering in the lower middle class had taken their toll. Or maybe it was something Dad had said. I’m not sure. Either way, what followed was the most earnest and intense moment we’ve ever shared.

She tenderly stroked the side of my face, guiding my attention towards her caring eyes. What Mom was about to say was so important to her that she didn’t just want me to hear it, she wanted me to believe it.

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The Hollywood Dodo
Part Two

by Geoff Nicholson

The film buff father worries about his daughter becoming a Hollywood actress. 3,190 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I realize that as a father I’m not the very best judge of these things, but come the next day I really did think Dorothy was looking absolutely gorgeous; bright-eyed, pert, quite the English rose. I was very proud of my daughter, and I felt full of confidence on her behalf. How could she not succeed as a Hollywood film actress?

In due course I dropped her off at the office of the agent, Bob Samuelson, located in a black glass building in West Hollywood. Neither of us had the slightest idea how long this meeting might take, but we agreed that we’d meet up in an hour’s time at a coffee shop we could see on the corner a block away. If the meeting went on longer than that I’d simply wait. Fathers are very good at waiting. I tried to give Dorothy a goodbye and good luck kiss but she held me at arm’s length, afraid I’d smear her make up.

I found myself thinking about Marilyn Monroe, a woman who, in general, I don’t think about all that much, but now I was recalling the story of when she was discovered by Ben Lyon, head of casting at Twentieth Century Fox. He met her and liked what he saw, so he sent her out to do the rounds of studio xecutives and he gave her letters of introduction to each of them. In every office the same thing happened. Each executive welcomed her, looked her over, read the letter, then walked round his desk, opened his fly and put his cock in her mouth. The “letters of introduction” merely said that Marilyn gave a great blowjob.

Who knows if the story is literally true? I’m inclined to think not. If Marilyn was so willing to perform oral sex on all and sundry then why would there have been any need for the letter? And even if Ben Lyon needed to tip off the other men, wouldn’t he have just phoned them in advance rather than messing about with the written introduction?

Nevertheless, you’re bound to feel that the story is symbolically true. Or perhaps we just want it to be true. The moral, I suppose, is that even a goddess like Marilyn Monroe had to degrade herself before she got a break in the movies.

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The Hollywood Dodo
Part One

by Geoff Nicholson

A father accompanies his actress daughter to a first meeting with a Hollywood agent. 3,202 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


I was sitting with my twenty-one year old daughter Dorothy on a Boeing 777, London to Los Angeles, in October, the skies more than usually turbulent. We were traveling in business class since we were indeed going to L.A. on business of a sort, or at least my daughter was; and also because, given my size and shape and great bulk, I have some difficulty fitting into the narrow confines of a coach class seat. Shameful but true. And I was thumbing through the airline magazine to see what movies were going to be available on my “personal in-flight entertainment system,” and I was thinking of some of the many things I hate about the movies.

The thing I was hating most at that moment was the way that aeroplanes in movies are always so pleasant. They’re spacious and airy, so well lit, so quiet, the passengers have so much leg room, the aisles are so unnaturally wide, it’s so easy to get a drink. In the real world it is never like this. Even in the ruinously expensive business class none of this, in my admittedly limited experience, is ever the case.

I’m not a fool. I realize there’s a perfectly good reason why movie aeroplanes don’t much resemble real aeroplanes. Moviemakers want their movies to look good. They need lots of light. They need quiet so that the dialogue is audible. And I suppose the gangways have to be unnaturally wide so that the crew can wheel the camera up and down between the seats. But these rational, practical considerations weren’t making me hate movies any the less at that particular moment.

Now, I know you could say that the above was no reason to hate the movies. In fact you could say that it was actually much more of a reason to hate real life, and at that time I certainly thought I had every reason to hate my real life, but in the circumstances I decided it was preferable to hate the movies instead. It seemed to me they were in business to deceive and trick us, to make us believe the world was a more glamorous, colourful and desirable place than it really is. Does this seem like enough motivation for hating movies? Perhaps not.

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American Pride
Part Four

by David Ker Schermerhorn

The agent has a career-altering meltdown because of his wife at a client’s Halloween party. 3,095 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


It was now an hour later and Casey couldn’t find Lori anywhere. He’d called her cell phone a dozen times, but it had gone straight to voicemail.

Casey was standing by Cheyne’s massive swimming pool, now unrecognizable because it had been transformed into another Halloween set for the Dump Trump bash. It could have been a scene out of a big budget Hollywood movie. Dry ice gave off a smoky effect and magnified the scene of a sinking ship with a fake Donald Trump at the bow, his red baseball cap on and a megaphone in his hand. “We’ve got this in the bag!” he announced. Off to the side were Paul Ryan and Chris Christie figures wearing rat ears and jumping off the sides.

Casey cursed out Cheyne for being so blasphemous towards the one man who could turn this country around. Now the agent just wanted to find Lori and get the hell out. “Lori, you out here?” Casey called, trying to spot her through the thick dry ice smoke. He spotted a dwarf, dressed as a nuclear warhead, walk by with a tray of tequila shots and grabbed two, hoping they’d take the edge off. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this angry.

Casey seethed as he stormed across the patio and back into the house. He headed for the stairs with reluctance. He’d already checked every room downstairs and the entire second story, with no trace of his wife. Now he was going to the third floor to find her. There, he spotted his assistant who was dressed as Harry Potter. The kid had a big goofy smile.

“Have you seen my wife anywhere?”

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