Category Archives: Film

What Would Pacino Do?

by Steve Shrott

Whenever the struggling actor was in a quandary, he asked himself this question. The answer came quickly. 2,614 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

“I’m going to kill you. Gonna watch you die and enjoy it. When you leaked that evidence about me, you made a big mistake. And now you’re gonna pay.” Jonathon Levy moved the gun closer to the bald man.

The bald man’s face remained blank. “Thanks. You can go now.”

“But I got more lines.”

“I’ve heard enough.” The bald man, whose name was William Henry, wrote something down on a pad then pushed his chair toward the desk.

Levy didn’t move.

“Sir, I have other people to see.”

Levy looked around the large empty audition hall, then leaned toward Henry, his small frame tiny next to the other man’s meatier physique. “What did you think?”


“I can do it another way if you like. More innocence, add in some humor, tougher. Any way you want.”

Henry blew out air. “You should go home, wait for your agent’s call.”

Levy nodded, sure the casting director gave him a signal — a signal that meant he got the part. That was good news, as he needed the money. Levy had been working in “the biz,” as he called it, for several years. He got the odd role, but not enough to keep him from being a waiter in a family restaurant. He hated the rude customers and screaming kids who often spilled ketchup and other crap on his white uniform. He hoped this would be the part that would take him to the top — perhaps getting him work with Pacino, his idol. He grinned at Henry and left.

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Dan The Man

by Jarrod Thalheimer

A young inexperienced security guard becomes an astute observer of how Hollywood really works. 2,547 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

Dan looked left and then right. The only one of these two that might make any sense was busy hopping on one foot as he pissed against a wall. No way was it the other guy. The other guy had no pants and was dragging a shopping cart without wheels. It couldn’t be him. Finally he finished. Dan called out. “Are you Vance?”

The guy who turned wasn’t tall but still somehow seemed it, at least until you got close. Thin, with stick legs, a huge head, rocker hair and a well-worn Judas Priest shirt. Dressed all in black, he looked more like a roadie than a professional security guard. Maybe 50/50?

“Yaa… whatta you want?”

“They… uh, I mean Wilf, told me to report here. I’m Dan… for security…”

“Well, welcome to Hollywood, buddy, or at least my shitty corner of it.”

Vance’s “corner” was actually on the lower East side of Vancouver. It consisted almost entirely of aging trucks, trailers and rental vans parked along a side street. Vance began to swing his arms and point.

“The whole circus is strung out along the block here – plus we got the small parking lot there and then another few trucks around that corner. It’s kind of a fuckin’ pain with the corner ‘cause it makes me have to get out and move around every hour or so. Glad you’re here.”

Dan nodded his head like he understood what was going on – even though he didn’t.

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Malibu Canyon
Part Two

by David A. Holden

The special effects wiz was so sure he would land the Disney contract. How will failure impact his family? 3,331 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Jerry glances at the clock: ten a.m. He rolls back to his workstation, where the screensaver catches his attention. It’s the logo of his company, an abstract depiction of a fishing boat about to be engulfed by a monstrous wave – the scene from the movie that made his special effects company’s reputation. Just looking at it now depresses him. The artwork for the logo, even using the still frame from the film, cost twenty-five grand, reminding him of that era of seeming limitless resources. Jerry hits the space bar on the keyboard just to get rid of the damn logo.

A buzzing at the office door jolts Jerry out of his reverie. He finds a cheerful woman with a latte and cinnamon roll, his usual order from the corner kiosk. He pays her and settles back in his work chair. The cinnamon roll in his stomach congeals into a rock. Without looking Jerry reaches into the drawer beneath the desk, pulls out a bottle of Tums, and pops a few. Is it too early to call Hal Rosen, the studio exec, and check up on the Disney deal? Jerry reaches for the phone but realizes that calling would be a faux pas. In New York, a call like that would mean you really wanted the job and you’d work extra hard if you got it. In L.A. it was a sign of weakness, of desperation.

Jerry asks Emily to invite Hal and his wife Lisa over for dinner – and for Emily to make her killer bouillabaisse. Emily and Lisa know each other not only from college but from their charity work for the Dream Center, and their daughters sometimes go horseback riding together. The evening is pleasant; business is never discussed. Upstairs their girls watch an old video and giggle a lot.

Late that night, after the guests have gone, Emily vomits up the fish stew. Then it’s Jerry’s turn. This goes on until three in the morning when it strikes Jerry that Hal and Lisa might be having the same reaction. First Jerry checks on their own daughter, who feels fine except for her resentment at being awoken in the middle of the night. Then Jerry calls Hal’s home number. No answer. He tries Hal’s cell and, to his surprise, Hal’s daughter answers. She’s with her parents at the emergency room at the City of Hope, just checking them in.

Oh, shit, Jerry thinks. “What’s happening?” he asks.

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Malibu Canyon
Part One

by David A. Holden

A special effects wizard on the way to the top of his profession suddenly tumbles. 3,614 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

If you’re looking for warm and fuzzy, look elsewhere. The Hollywood tabloids and online rumormongers only let the matter pass because, at first, Jerry Switzer didn’t merit their attention and, by the time the full bloom of his foulness became known, the subject was old news. But for those of us in the entertainment industry, Jerry’s downfall wasn’t schadenfreude as much as there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I.

Jerry worked as a highly paid specialist in Hollywood’s visual effects industry, conjuring his wizardry of transforming or heightening reality not on the chaos of the set but later, at the quiet of a humming computer workstation. From about nine in the morning until long after dark, he toned up the visuals of countless film and commercial images for FloMotion, a company which made its reputation years earlier depicting ocean waves on the big screen with such detailed realism that you would never believe they were filmed in what amounted to an oversized bathtub.

Louise and I both had known Jerry and his lovely wife Emily since college at Cal Arts. Back then Jerry was a regular guy, a bit of a social slouch, but he laughed at our jokes and occasionally came up with one of his own. If we laughed, he glowed as if finally being accepted by our group. Which we considered him to be: he was one of us.

I don’t pretend to know the whole account; I can only try to piece it together after the fact. Jerry was my friend; that is to say that I knew him over a period of years and we and our wives and families went to the beach, had cookouts together, those sorts of things. One pristine spring day, before any of us had kids, we even hiked the length of Malibu Canyon – a sobering thought looking back now.

Jerry and I also knew each other professionally, so I have a minor role to play in this saga. I have this to say: the Jerry I knew was a good man, devoted to his wife and daughter, considerate of his employees, an all-around true-blue-swell guy.

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Coming To A Theater Near You?

by Alan Swyer

It’s the most cliched phrase in filmmaking: “I want to direct.” This screenwriter said it and had nothing to lose. 2,791 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.

"Hit you for a favor?" Gregorian asked as he and Salter strolled toward their cars after an hour of pickup basketball at a park in Santa Monica.

"Fire away."

"A partner and I have a psychological thriller we’re getting ready to shoot –"


"Mind taking a look at the script?"

As though monitored by some advanced form of Google Earth, Salter’s phone rang the very instant he finished reading the screenplay.

Asked Gregorian, "What do you think?"

"See the Dodger game last night?"

"You’re ducking."


"C’mon, I’m a big boy. Tell me your thoughts."

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Brain Scripts

by Steve Young

A horror screenwriter is shocked to discover that his scripts are the templates for a serial killer. 2,251 words. Illustrations by Thomas Warming.

Jason Black’s work area is a cold grey-walled room with no furnishings other than his desk and chair. A pale overweight quite ordinary-looking screenwriter of the blockbuster Slicer film series, he’s dressed in standard writer gear: sweater and jeans with black plastic-framed glasses sitting slightly askew on his face. He breathes a deep sigh, then takes off his glasses to rub his eyes. He’s exhausted.

The phone rings. The cell phone screen reads: Asshole Agent.

Jason smirks and picks up the phone.

“Yeah, Mark,” answers Jason with a hint of disdain.

“Mark Stevens here, Jason.”

“I know, Mark. What is it?”

“Howya doin’ on Slicer, The Killing Kontinues?”

“It’s done. I changed the title to Slicer, Just Like the Old Slicer. In Fact It’s Pretty Much Exactly Like Every Slicer. ”

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by Matthew Licht

Disembowelment fantasies had made washed-up actress Vera North a star on the Walk of Gore. 2,273 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Sunset plays gentle with crumbling mansions and women. Bathed in the bloody light of a death-bound day, there was nothing between her front door and the sun except the Pacific. Between her and the sun was me and my chainsaw. She shielded her eyes.

“You won’t need that,” she said. “He already fell down dead.”

“Yeah, but I only got a Ford flatbed, not a semi.”

“I wanted to spare him the indignity of an autopsy.”

“Call another landscaper.”

She thought about it briefly. “You’re late, by the way.” Sunset showed who she was, or used to be: Vera North, straight-to-DVD splatter star supreme. She caught the flicker, and knew she was no longer mortal in my eyes. “Never mind,” she said.

Most past-it movie actresses get screechy when menials presume to knock on their front doors. Vera, who’d died a thousand slow gory excruciating dismemberment deaths for public consumption, was past caring. She asked if I wanted a cocktail.

Drinks clinked on the way out to the backyard, where we viewed the deceased.

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Add An Umlaut

by George Nickle

The agency partner thought he had it all until he couldn’t escape his past any longer. 1,736 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

Dan’s unraveling began with the search for a new assistant and fully bloomed with a stupid fight his son had at school.

Gabe, his newly promoted assistant at the talent agency, was arguing with the HR woman, whose name Dan couldn’t bother to remember, right outside his office door.

“I was trying to have a call.” He punctuated it with a withering look shot at them both.

“Sorry, Dan,” Gabe offered. The HR woman just looked away. Gabe took the résumé from the HR woman’s hand and passed it to Dan, who’d left the entire process of weeding through the applicants to Gabe, only interviewing the final three to meet his high standards. Dan had rejected them all. “You don’t want to see this person.”

Dan began scanning this latest application. A woman who’d attended a community college in the Valley.

“She is extremely bright, competent and organized,” said the HR woman, defending her choice. “I think you should at least meet her.”

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by Matt Graham

Hope convinces TV writers they can have stable careers while busy turning their real lives into disaster zones. 3,365 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Ben was trying to get on the show Pipeliners. It occupied his every waking thought.

In the gym, at WiSpa, getting French Basque dinner at Taix, during AA meetings, at home in Echo Park, on a third date with this Mexican TV actress named Gina Arana who said she was a Taurus and drove a Mustang, getting coffee at Tierra Mia, doing his Instagram, yoga, writing, reading pilot scripts, attending a meeting at the WGA, eating vegan food at Sage and pretending he liked it — it was all he thought about. Pipeliners, the new show in town that was hiring. Open writing staff. All levels. He was submitted for it and he was in with a shot.

Pipeliners was all he thought about because it was the only thing worth thinking about. That’s how it is: you want it, you have to take it. That’s what Hollywood teaches you.

A couple of writers he knew from the Writers’ Room on White Heat, the show he’d been on three years ago, had called him over the weekend and asked him if he’d been submitted for Pipeliners, too. White Heat had been kind of a Golden Age for them all, and the writers were still all tight. They shared info, they met for lunch and dinners still.

He told them he was being submitted for it, too.

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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. 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. 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. 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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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Two

by Duane Byrge

The lead actress of the opening night picture at the Cannes Film Festival is murdered – and a Hollywood film critic is the prime suspect. Part One. Part Three. 3,744 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.

The French National Police gendarmes hurried Ryan Cromwell through reception, which resembled a cheap hotel lobby, and down a narrow brown hallway. They propelled him into an interrogation room only slightly larger than a bread box and painted gas chamber green. A man in his mid-fifties, wearing a dull black suit befitting a homicide detective, studied a copy of the day’s Hollywood Times. The page was opened to Ryan Cromwell’s review of The Ice Princess. The cop looked directly at Ryan. Then looked down at the paper. Then back up at Ryan.

”We have some questions for you, Monsieur Cromwell,” the detective said in a monotone and perfect English.

”Please, tell me what’s going on?” Ryan’s voice cracked, and his mouth was dry. “Why was I dragged down here?”

“My name is Inspector Thiereaux. I wish to talk about your film critique. In your criticism of The Ice Princess film, you wrote, ‘The script is so bad that one hopes that the film’s signature blue scarf would be stuffed down Kristen Bjorge’s throat so we wouldn’t have to hear her utter another word of dialogue.’”

”What do you mean, ‘stuffed down her throat’? I never wrote that.”

“It is right here.” The policeman shoved the review across the table. Ryan grabbed it and scanned the opening paragraph. He had begun with a discussion about lead actress Kristen’s screen presence. None of that was there.

“These are not my words,” Ryan said.

“I do not understand.”

“Sometimes the editors cut or rewrite my reviews. This is appalling. Because it blatantly misrepresents my thoughts. I would never take such a vulgar and aggressive tone. It’s so Internet.”

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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A Hollywood film critic pans the opening night picture at the Cannes Film Festival – and suddenly he’s in police custody. Part Two. 2,430 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.

The half moon was smudgy white but ripening nicely for its full appearance at the Cannes Film Festival. Like a diva, it would not make its entrance until the final Saturday which the organizers already were proclaiming an evening of perfect alignment when “La Lunar Festival” would ascend to its spot of high honor in the dark blue Mediterranean sky. At the moment, the moon was glowing so exquisitely above the sea that it could have been a special effects rendition.

For a brief second, Ryan Cromwell savored the spectacle. Because the moon, the sea, the breeze, and The Ice Princess party were all his. It was the hottest Cannes invite in years. A sexy publicist from DeSimio & Associates had offered Ryan $250 for his ticket and, when he declined, she had upped the ante with an X-rated proposition. Ryan said no because he had a bad case of “Cannes Disease,” a contagious desperation that you had to be doing something every minute, and if not, you were missing something somewhere. Because the one event you decided not to attend would be the highlight of the festival.

Ryan was the senior film critic for the Hollywood Times, the top trade paper for the movie industry. He stood just over 6 feet with wavy dark hair and a physique toned by daily afternoon runs at the UCLA track and regular Tae Kwon Do workouts at a dojo on Sunset. He dressed well, but erratically, and when he won special praise for his “costume design,” as he called it, he took it as an indication that he lacked style at other times. He had just turned 38, and this was his eleventh trip to Cannes. It still always overwhelmed him that he was at the celebrated film festival, where the likes of his movie idols had graced the Red Carpet. Despite his modesty, Ryan knew that he belonged; his reviews set the tone and held the future for many of the films that would debut here in competition. The world would be reading him.

Standing in line to get into the party, Ryan was tapped on the back. He turned to see Stan Peck, his least favorite journalist. Peck wore a Hawaiian shirt, large sun visor and blue metallic sunglasses.

“Where’s your cigarette holder, Hunter?” Ryan asked.

“Slightly funny,” Peck responded. “I hoped to talk with you about your scathing review of The Ice Princess. It’s already the talk of the festival. I loved your lead: ‘Big guns, big gadgets, big hair, big dud.’”

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Le Jet Lag
Part Four

by Peter Lefcourt

The Cannes Film Festival ends and with it the escapades of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Three. 3,614 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.

The next morning, American film publicist Erika Marks sat down with Crimea star Hanna Lee Hedson in the luxurious Carlton Hotel on La Croisette and said, choosing her words carefully, “Do you want the film to win the Palme d’Or?”

“Why else would I have shown up in this fucking country?”

“We may have a little obstacle. The French like low-budget art films and this is a budget-busting Hollywood movie. We’d like you to do a news conference today. This will be the last one, I promise. But you’re a fifteen-minute appearance at the Palais away from winning the Cannes Film Festival. With that, you can do any picture you want.”

This thought penetrated deeply into the soft tissue of actress Hanna Lee Hedson’s ego, the place where she lived most of the time. What Erika didn’t tell Hanna was that her film career probably would never recover from all these Crimea press conferences demonstrating her lack of compassion for minority groups. Or that the actress definitely would lose a large chunk of her gross-profit participation revenue when the movie tanked at the box office.

But neither Erika nor her PR boss Larry Moulds cared. They were still focused on ensuring Crimea didn’t win the most prestigious festival award. Or any Cannes award, for that matter. “The Armenians could picket the event. It’d be great pub,” Larry said to Erika an hour later.

“We don’t want overkill. These people get very excited. They could do something really stupid,” Erika reminded him.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Some crazy could take a shot at her.”

“So? Could you buy that type of ink?”

In spite of all her years in the business, Erika never ceased to be amazed at what people would do to promote a movie. Kill off the star? Why not? The movie was in the can, and they had all the loops they needed. So who needed Hanna?

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