Category Archives: Crime

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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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The Gift

by Howard Rosenberg

The TV showrunner’s betrayed wife is intent on vengeance. But can she get it? 2,207 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


VALERIE

Outrageous! The price had jumped to eighty-five dollars for a dozen pieces, each no larger than a thimble.

Yet Condazini Triple Chocolate Italian Crèmes were worth it: roasted almond butter with a hint of espresso, and in a dark chocolate shell that melted slowly on her tongue. The complex aroma alone stimulated her taste buds. It was heavenly, and Valerie Lasky adored every sinful calorie.

She paid cash, then watched the sales clerk slip the slender gold box into an elegant Chocolatier bag and slide the guilty pleasure across the gleaming glass counter.

The saleswoman smiled and said, “Enjoy!” Valerie nodded but didn’t speak, careful to do nothing the clerk might recall. A word or a glance could form a memory. Though low odds of that; she was one customer of many. Besides, Valerie felt anonymous behind her dark sunglasses and her hair folded under a generic baseball cap. Plus, Chocolatier was too many zip codes from her Pasadena neighborhood for anyone to make a geographical connection.

By late afternoon, Valerie had disarmed the alarm in the large Craftsman house on leafy Laguna Road. It was empty except for the family’s calico cat. Their eldest son was at Stanford, and the twins, were at summer camp.

The solitude was lovely, the only sound her stiletto heels clicking on the heart pine floors. Valerie now needed privacy. Her husband Raymond had texted in the morning that he would be working late. Again. Something about an emergency reshoot. Again. Such was the predictable unpredictability of a highly paid TV showrunner with a moderate hit and a homelife relegated to a footnote.

This showrunner, at least.

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The Big Skedaddle
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Private eye McNulty returns to flim-flam a filmdom fugitive. 1,765 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The ex-President of Production of Vantage International Pictures, Vern Clybourne, was aware that Cuba had long been a haven for celebrities and scoundrels. Author Ernest Hemingway made it his home for 20 years,. Then there was fugitive financier Robert Vesco, a close friend and contributor to Richard Nixon, who took advantage of Cuba’s lack of an extradition treaty with the U.S. to create the perfect sanctuary for a wanted multimillionaire evading American justice. Despite the U.S. government’s 50-plus year travel and trade embargo, the mystique and charisma of the Caribbean island nation’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro proved an irresistible lure to many of Hollywood’s A-list filmmakers. Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio were just some of the names who over the years openly defied the travel ban. Their positive comments about both the country and Castro were later decried widely by the conservative media and U.S. officials. Vern basked in the warm realization that soon he, too, would join the ranks of these illustrious film names.

Now he licked his lips in anticipation as Senior Miguel Chavez opened the polished teak box. Nestled inside was a Soviet made TT-30 automatic pistol which was an exact replica of an American-made Colt M-1911-A1.

“Magnificent,” Vern whispered with lust in his eyes. “Che Guevara’s authentic sidearm.” He eyed Senior Xhavez suspiciously. “What about Che’s M-16 shotgun and grenade launcher that you promised me?”

“Still in Havana,” Chavez apologized. “It will be presented to you upon your arrival.”

“I see,” Vern nodded. Clearly the Cubans wanted to be sure he wouldn’t renege on his commitment to serve as an international judge for their newly revived Cuban National Film Festival. “As long as there’s still no extradition treaty between Cuba and the U.S., I’m there,” he promised.

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The Big Skedaddle
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

P.I. McNulty is back to uncover a major con by a moviedom con artist. 1,764 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The big muscled middle-aged guy stormed through the front doors of LAPD’s Hollywood Division police station so forcefully that the duty officer instinctively reached for his holstered sidearm. There was no telling what kind of freaked-out meth head or crazed gangbanger might come bursting through those doors at two a.m., but this dude, apart from being pissed-off, was clearly none of those.

“I need Detective Whitley,” the man barked, the fire in his eyes as intense as a blast furnace. “Tell him McNulty’s here.”

A quick phone call later, the private eye was issued a visitor’s badge and directed to the desk of Detective Owen Whitley. Not that McNulty needed directions. The infamous investigator had been here many times before, usually to bail out some of Tinseltown’s higher profile celebrities. The last time was when his late friend Lenny Hazeltine was clocked doing 120 mph on the 101 in a brand new Ferrari and arrested for speeding, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. (“Like I told the officers,” Lenny said, a twinkle in his eye. “My first wife ran off with a cop. I thought they were bringing her back!”) But there was nothing funny about McNulty’s early morning visit now.

“Where is she?” McNulty snapped.

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The Concrete Mirage
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood P.I. McNulty pieces together the puzzle surrounding the missing TV showrunner. 2,160 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


McNulty was finishing a fourteen-hour day piecing together all the images related to the year-long disappearance of TV showrunner Dana Delongpre. The images from his iPhone. The surveillance video from the convenience store where she’d last been seen. And all the photos posted by CHP Officer and wannabe screenwriter Chet Nichols on his Facebook and Instagram pages expertly hacked courtesy of McNulty’s Nerd Ninja team.

Blurry-eyed from hours of frame by frame studying on his notebook screen, McNulty leaned back in his chair and knocked back the last mouthful of Glenlivet, his mind still sharp and focused. And now he was damn sure he knew what had happened to Dana. And it wasn’t murder at the hands of her husband.

“Wanda!” the Hollywood P.I. barked into the office intercom. “Get me Shamrock!”

‘Shamrock” was the code name for Killian Cleary, a former IRA soldier and roguish Irish mercenary who’d seen action as a private CIA contractor in many of the world’s hotspots. A dead shot and skilled martial arts expert, Killian Cleary was McNulty’s secret go-to guy whenever back-up was needed on an investigation.

“Got one, boyo?” Shamrock laughed, recognizing the number on the burner phone McNulty used exclusively to contact him.

“It could get sticky,” McNulty admitted.

“Where and when?” Shamrock asked.

“Tonight,” McNulty replied. “Bring the beast.” That was another coded reference for Shamrock’s armored Hummer which he’d outfitted with an impressive array of firepower.

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The Concrete Mirage
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood P.I. McNulty is back, hired by a missing TV showrunner’s husband accused of murder. 2,064 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Nearly a year had passed since Dana Delongpre had gone missing. She and her Range Rover had seemingly evaporated into thin air on a dark and lonely stretch of Mojave Desert highway. Now you see her, now you don’t like some spangled magician’s assistant in a Vegas lounge act. But this was no magic trick, nor was it just another routine missing person’s case. This was news. Not just in Hollywood where Dana was the creator of a hit TV series, but throughout the world because, well, she was the creator and showrunner of a hit TV series.

“Dozens of people go missing every day,” McNulty grumbled at the time. “But when there’s a Hollywood connection, the media’s all over it like glitter on a pole dancer.”

As the days blended into weeks, media speculation about Dana’s disappearance ran the gamut from running off with a lover to alien abduction. What was known for sure was that Dana was driving back from a location shoot near Lone Pine, a three-hour drive from L.A., after filming on her series The Paradox Files had gone late and she’d left sometime after eleven p.m. Pings from her cell phone showed her heading south on 395 before taking the southbound Antelope Valley Freeway. She was even picked up on surveillance cameras buying gas and coffee at a convenience store on the outskirts of Palmdale. That was the last time anyone saw her. Authorities quickly launched an intensive week-long ground and air search along the freeway and the intersecting California Aqueduct, but found no trace of Dana or her Range Rover.

Now, as the first anniversary of her disappearance approached, the media was interested in the case once again. Only this time they dug up new information that Dana’s marriage had been a troubled one. She and her husband were on the verge of divorce, and police had responded to at least two domestic violence calls. As a result, what had started out as a tragic missing person was now being looked at as a possible murder investigation. And that made Dana’s talent agent husband the prime suspect.

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Mygalomorph

by Steven Mallas

A wannabe filmmaker finds an unconventional way to get his horror script made. 3,216 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


“You understand what I want you to do?”

“Yeah,” I said. It was easy to say it. Flowed off the tongue. I wasn’t even worried. What was that line from that Hannibal film, the one with the lambs? His pulse never got above a certain number, he was so relaxed? That’s how I felt. Relaxed.

“Great.”

“And you finance my film.”

“Absolutely.”

“And I get gross participation, backend, off-the-top. The works.”

“The works,” he agreed.

I didn’t smile. But I should have. You don’t smile, though, when you make a Breaking Bad deal like that. I don’t mean a deal with AMC; I mean, a deal that will put you on the other side. For good. I was about to become a Walter White. And I was only in my early 20s.

Got to start sometime in Hollywood.

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The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part Three

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood private eye McNulty is probing a crime puzzler that’s more complex than a missing two-piece swimsuit. 2,782 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Guiding his El Dorado off the 101 Freeway in Hollywood and down Gower toward Sunset, McNulty put in a call to LAPD Lt. Tony Ventura. “That last location you gave me for Tabasco was old and cold. But I’ve got a pretty solid lead I’m following up now.”

For the past two hours, the Hollywood gumshoe had been canvasing Downtown L.A.’s pawn shops and pumping the brokers on the high-end for Tabasco’s whereabouts. McNulty was almost certain Ramon De Soto, the fence’s real name, was involved in the theft of long-ago actress Misty Marlowe’s billion dollar bikini from the Stardust Treasures auction house. The P.I. was well aware that many of the pawnbrokers were into hot merch themselves and might be inclined, for a price, to put a competitor like De Soto out of business. By the time McNulty got a good lead on the fence’s latest location, his wallet was $1,600 dollars lighter.

“So where is Tabasco?” Lt. Ventura demanded.

Laughing, McNulty responded, “He’s in the movie industry.”

According to McNulty’s snitch, Tabasco had set himself up in the property rental business and occupied office and storage space at the newly renovated Hollywood Global studios. “It’s not exactly the heart of Tinseltown,” McNulty joked, “but when you get to the spleen, turn right.”

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The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Hollywood P.I. McNulty pursues missing movie memorabilia only to find mystery and murder. 2,079 words. Part One. Part Three tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


As he approached the woman standing in the open doorway, McNulty nearly froze in his tracks. Though she was clearly in her early sixties, the wife of the legendary movie producer Nathan Grandstone was a much older and still strikingly attractive mirror image of dead Hollywood movie star Misty Marlowe.

“You’ll have to forgive the security guard,” Mrs. Grandstone smiled. “He’s become a bit overprotective since my husband’s stroke.” She ushered the Hollywood gumshoe inside and they retreated to the rear terrace where they seated themselves.  “Lt. Ventura said you were coming by. Something to do with Julian Hayvenhurst and the auction house selling Misty Marlowe’s swimsuit.”

“Just a formality,” McNulty said, unable to take his eyes from her face which was so much like the one on the iconic poster of Misty in the missing billion dollar bikini. If sixty was the new forty, he thought, she was living proof. At first he thought she was winking at him, but quickly realized it was a slight facial tic next to her right eye. “We just want to confirm that Mr. Hayvenhurst was here when the bikini was stolen.”

“Indeed he was,” she said, pouring cold lemonade into two tall glasses. “We were discussing the auction, as well as some of Misty’s other mementos we were thinking of offering at future sales. He was here until quite late.”

“Mind telling me how Misty’s belongings came to be in your possession?”

“Not at all. She left them to me in her will.”

“You’re a relative?”

“A very close one,” she said, a Mona Lisa smile creasing her lips. “I’m Misty’s sister. We were twins.”

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The Billion Dollar Bikini
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

The Hollywood gumshoe McNulty is on the case again, this time asked to search for his wet dream. 2,296 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


She was as iconic a sex symbol as any film goddess who had ever scorched the silver screen. Even now, some forty years after her mysterious and tragic suicide, Misty Marlowe with her statuesque allure and curvaceous figure was seared indelibly into the male, and a fair number of female, memories as well.

That she should perish in the cold embrace of the Pacific was somehow as sadly fitting as it was ironic. Everyone knew the genesis of Misty’s stardom had been her gasp-inducing debut in the low-budget B movie Neptune’s Nymph. Cast as an uninhibited seductress, Misty emerged from the sea in a glorious slow-motion shot glistening in a barely-there bikini. One critic was so taken with her ample bosom that he was compelled to observe rather cheekily how “newcomer Misty Marlowe is perfectly cast as the titular leading lady.”

That single bikini image had become an instant poster sensation and fifty-five years later was still producing more erections than an ADD kid with a box of Legos. For the last few weeks, Misty’s iconic swimwear was making worldwide headlines once again, accompanied by a photo of Misty in her scanty nymph costume: “MOVIE BABE’S BIKINI STOLEN FROM AUCTION HOUSE!” “COPS CONDUCT TOP TO BOTTOM SEARCH FOR STAR’S STOLEN BIKINI!” “HUNT FOR SEX SYMBOL’S BIKINI PETER’S OUT!” “LAPD ADMITS NO PROGRESS IN BIKINI THEFT!”

“Tits,” McNulty mused as he eyed the famous photo on the front page of the Los Angeles Times. “The mother’s milk of Hollywood.”

“Good line,” said the writer, tapping it into his iPad mini. “I’ll definitely use that. I’m the Boswell to your Johnson.

“Stop saying that,” McNulty demanded. “It sounds like you’re writing about my dick.”

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A Killer Review

by Howard Rosenberg

A prominent TV producer’s death is both mourned and celebrated simultaneously. 3,192 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


Melody Grant observed life through a writer’s eyes, composing on a laptop in her head. That way she could imagine her husband’s recent death — ninety-five per cent factual, with dabs of embellishment for color and drama — as a passage in one of her novels:

On the eve of his greatest glory, Arnold Chafis was not merely upset, he was thunderbolt-shaken and enraged, Vesuvius about to blow. He had tried to remain calm while continuing to read, grinding his teeth as his volcanic anger built, until pain erupted in the middle of his chest. Then his arms, then his jaw. Suddenly, eyes clouding and brain swimming, he felt faint — then fear. Arnold, a prominent TV producer, was 63 when he died in Hancock Park. His wife, the mystery novelist Melody Grant, found him in the evening, slumped over his banquet table-sized desk in front of an open laptop. He’d been reading reviews for Remorse, his highly anticipated weekly TV drama about a young doctor accused of malpractice. It was to premiere the next night on ABC.

Notices for the series had been blurb-ready and glowing:

Congenitally glum Val Steinway of The New York Times cheered: “Hats off to a brilliant and vibrant new feather in TV’s cap!” Roger Kale of the Wall Street Journal, famously unkind to anything attached to a broadcast network, toasted “this HBO-worthy Chafisian work of genius.” Politico’s resident skeptic Carrie Rice-Wentworth rated the new series “many times smarter than ABC’s Shondaland and — no exaggeration — nearly equal to The Sopranos and Breaking Bad.” And in Variety, difficult-to-please Vince Nichols forecast “a ton of Emmys for this stunningly boffo TV.”

Only one major critic panned. It was this scathing review — by usually-measured, never-shrill, bordering-on-dull Dean Formento of the Los Angeles Times — that Arnold had been reading when his heart stopped.

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Falconer – Part Four
Write, Baby, Write

by Jason Pomerance

The screenwriter’s career is going gangbusters again. There’s just one last complication. 3,002 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


After three more weeks of intense procrastination, screenwriter Gavin Falconer jumped in his Mercedes and rocketed to his favorite Palm Springs haunt. He handed his iPhone, iPad, wallet and car keys to the concierge and told him to lock them up. He had the TV removed from his room. With the help of cigarettes, Kettle One, and vials of amphetamines, Gavin was able, without stopping, to crank out a draft in eleven straight days. He smelled foul and looked like shit, his hair and beard wild. He was half-blind from eye strain and could barely walk. But he managed to hit send by the deadline.

His agent Kurt McCann read the script and told Gavin he’d hit it out of the ballpark. Then Precious Chaing-Lee, the assistant to the producer Lana Meisel, called to set a notes meeting before the script went to studio executive Brent Burnham. Now Gavin was being escorted to Lana’s office where she was waiting along with Precious. Lana started the meeting with praise. Then she expressed concern that he’d failed to ramp up sufficient tension after the mid-point.

But mostly it was smooth sailing. Until Gavin suddenly said that he’d like to made a suggestion.

“Wait, a writer with a note?” Lana laughed uproariously. Within seconds, she’d tweeted what Gavin said, then held up her phone to show him the fast growing tally of ‘likes’ and retweets.

“Listen,” Gavin insisted. “I was just wondering whether to beef up the role of Monique.”

“Monique?” Lana said. “She’s in two scenes as eye-candy for the preteen boys who will want to jack off to her meme.”

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Falconer – Part Three
Creatively Speaking

by Jason Pomerance

The screenwriter is being watched and followed. Will a woman expose his crime or blackmail him? 2,546 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


In the dream, screenwriter Gavin Falconer struggled again with story analyst Dale Tomasis. They were in the dirt at the base of the deck. Dale threw Gavin to the ground, and then Gavin couldn’t move, as if he’d been paralyzed. He screamed and woke up, covered in sweat. He took a moment to catch his breath, then rose, naked, from the bed. He walked through his silent house. In the kitchen he downed a Xanax with a slug of Kettle One. He grabbed his laptop and headed outside. He took some deep breaths and gazed at lights twinkling up from below. It was dead silent in the hills, a good time to start writing.

He typed a slug line: EXT. DEEP SPACE – NIGHT.

He sat back and stared at the words and thought about his pitch of story analyst Dale’s idea. The first act covered so much ground, he wasn’t sure how to begin. He paced the length of the deck several times, then sat back down and began stabbing at the keys again.

“Lame!” he said out loud, deleting the opening paragraph.

He tried again. “Fuck!” he shouted, because these new words sucked, too. Then he remembered the flash drive from Dale’s desk. Gavin headed inside, found it and plugged it into his computer. Dale’s “Movie Ideas” came up on the screen. Gavin scanned through them but couldn’t find notes or even an outline. Jesus, Gavin thought, was that all this fucker had?

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