Clint heard the knock from his office. He sighed inwardly and got to his feet, shutting his laptop. He walked out into the living room and reached the front door, just as the knock repeated. He answered it reluctantly.
“Peter,” he said with a short nod and stepping aside to let the man in.
“Do you have the pictures?” asked Peter, coming inside and ignoring the greeting.
“I’ll go get them. Have a seat.” Clint gestured to the couch. “Would you like a something drink? A beer or-”
“Just the pictures,” said Peter curtly.
Clint resisted the urge to roll his eyes and ducked back into his office. He pulled an envelope out of the desk drawer and came back out. He took a seat next to Peter on the sofa and handed the envelope over.
“That’s all of them. Both the ones I sold and the ones that I didn’t if they felt too redundant.”
Peter reached inside and took out the stack of photographs and began to slowly go through them. He paused a third of the way through the stack and turned one of them around towards Clint. It showed Peter passed out drunk and lying halfway off a couch.
“Classy picture. Great taste,” he commented dryly.
Clint stood to his feet abruptly. “Well you’ve got the pictures. You can-”
There was the sound of a key in the lock and the apartment door opened.
“Surprise! I caught an early flight so I could see you before the show tonight-” Nikki froze halfway into the apartment.
Clint couldn’t suppress a small groan as she looked between the two men for a moment in confusion. She then gave a small shake of her head and pulled on a 100 watt, picture-perfect smile.
“Peter! It’s really good to see you again.” She came over, her hand held out. “You probably don’t remember meeting me. I’m Nikki Steele.”
“Ah, no,” Peter admitted, a little flustered, shaking her hand. “But I do of course recognize you Miss Steele.”
“And you’re here to…” Nikki glanced at Clint doubtfully, as if she wasn’t certain whether or not she’d better get between the two of them.
“I was just leaving,” said Peter quickly. He shoved the photos back into the envelope. “Morgan…” he looked at a loss for words and finally seemed to land on, “Thank you for your time.” He smiled at Nikki and headed for the door. As it shut behind him Nikki turned to Clint.
“What was he doing here? Are you alright?”
“I-…I’ll explain in a minute. I’ll be right back Nik.”
“Clint but what-”
He didn’t wait to hear her and instead followed Peter out into the hallway. Peter was at the far end, calling up the elevator when Clint caught up to him and he certainly seemed less than thrilled to see him.
“Glades look,” said Clint, speaking quickly, “I know you don’t like me. And I get why not. But I need to ask that you not tell people about seeing Nikki here today.”
Peter blinked. “What?”
“Look we both know how gossip spreads in this town. You tell one person, you might as well call up the tabloids yourself. And I really want this kept out of the papers. I need-”
“Privacy?” said Peter flatly.
Both men’s eyes flicked down to the envelope in his hand.
The elevator doors slid open and Peter stepped inside. Clint hesitated for a millisecond and then followed.
“What are you doing?” asked Peter annoyed.
“Just hear me out.”
Peter pressed the button for the ground floor and didn’t respond.
“Look,” pressed Clint, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have taken the pictures. And I should have apologized a heck of a lot sooner. It was a huge mistake.”
“But please don’t tell anyone a pop star’s dating you, right?” said Peter dryly.
“Alright yes, so I need something from you. But I am also truly sorry. Whether you were guilty or not-”
Peter let out an exasperated sigh. Clint ignored it and continued. “What I did was still wrong.”
There was a long silence and then a ding before the doors slid open. Peter moved to exit but Clint reached out a hand and stopped him.
“Wait. Look I can help you.”
Peter looked back at him doubtfully. “How can you help me?”
“I know why you want the pictures. I figured it out.”
A flicker of shock flashed across Peter’s face.
“You’re trying to rework your image, aren’t you?” guessed Clint. “You’ve probably trying to get a piece lined up with some magazine and you’re hoping you can show the pictures in a more sympathetic light. Use them to your advantage. You’re trying to rehab your image and present a new public face. And it’s a not a bad time for it.”
Peter opened his mouth to speak but Clint barreled on.
“I have connections. I have access to lots of old photos besides these and I can get them free. I could probably get some interviews for you and definitely help set up a couple of prime ‘candid’ photo opportunities; get your image in the tabloids being all charitable and good. Help people think of you in a new light. I can pull strings for you and, well I owe you.”
“And why on earth would I ever trust you? The last time I did you took advantage of it.”
“Mutually assured destruction. I sell you out; you call the tabloids and tell them about Nikki.”
“And if I sell out your secret, you’ll have a pretty good story yourself after working with me.”
Clint didn’t bother to reply, he just waited.
Peter turned away and stared at the elevator wall for a several long thoughtful second. He looked back towards Clint.
“Could you get a hold of old paparazzi photographs?”
“Sure. No problem.”
“From five years ago?”
Clint frowned but nodded. “I should be able to.”
“Alright then.” Peter faced him squarely. “I want every picture you can find of my wife with another man from five years ago. Everything from six months before her death to…well, her death.”
“Why? Everyone knows what she was like, a smear campaign isn’t necessary and it’ll probably just hurt you if it comes from your camp.”
“The pictures are what I want. Either you’ll get them for me or you won’t,” said Peter firmly.
Clint paused and then slowly nodded. “Okay, I’ll do it. It’ll take a little while. Why don’t we meet up again next week? If you give me your address,” suggested Clint, “I can drop them by-”
Peter snorted. “You really think I want you anywhere near my apartment? No. I’ll meet you at yours.”
Clint nodded again. Peter barely waited for his agreement before turning and walking out of the elevator.