Photographers were swarming over the sidewalk. Not unlike a disturbed anthill, thought Clint a little dourly. The nightclub they were all congregating around had only been open for a few days, was partly owned by a Grammy winning rapper, and was still attracting large numbers of curious VIP partiers like moths.
The line for the ‘regular’ people, hopeful for a chance to be allowed in, was stretched round the block and it felt like every paparazzo who didn’t have a better lead had shown up tonight for a few easy snaps.
Clint was leaning against the wall of the building near the front. There was a lull in the arrivals and some of the photographers were milling a little. Clint heard his name and turned. He sighed inwardly as Lionel approached him. The man was unzipping his camera case and removing the lens cap.
“You’re late,” commented Clint, seeing that conversation was going to be impossible to avoid. “You just get here?”
“Yes.” Lionel hung the camera strap around his neck. “Doctor’s appointment.”
“It’s fine. You know doctors. He went on about some tests to run on my heart or something. A big waste of time. I’m not about to drop dead. They just want an excuse to send me a ludicrously high bill.” Lionel waved the subject away with the flick of his hand. “I’m more annoyed it made me late.” He grinned. “Did I miss anything good?”
“Not really, no.”
“Well they’re not leaving yet,” said Lionel with confidence, and perhaps a hint of relish. “Give it a few hours and celebrities will start staggering out of those doors drunk out of their minds.”
“Can’t wait,” said Clint. Lionel missed the tone in his voice.
A limo pulled up to the curb and Clint could feel the push of movement behind him as the other photographers tried to move closer to the front for a good angle. The limo door opened and Nikki stepped out.
Clint purposefully let two paparazzi slip past him and drifted to the back of the pack. He didn’t see Holly step from the limo after her.
Holly was bombarded with camera flashes. She resisted the urge to raise a hand to block it and instead smiled, adjusted the skirt of her dress slightly, and followed a couple of steps behind Nikki as she made her way towards the club entrance.
A few feet from the door, Holly heard a second car pull up, and the flashes switched directions, allowing her to see better. She glanced towards the left and recognized a face near the front of the crowd. She tripped.
Flashes jumped back in her direction as she hit the ground and Nikki was at her side a second later, grabbing her hand and helping her back to her feet. Holly gave a fake laugh, shaking her head in what she hoped was a self-deprecating manner while she tried to look casually back over at the photographers. But with the flashes once again blinding her, it was impossible to make out any faces.
Nikki was already entering the club now and Holly hurried after her.
The night club had an excited buzz to it. It was brightly lit, and music and people were competing with each other to be heard.
“This way!” Nikki called. Holly followed her around the corner of the dance floor to the back, where Nikki gave their names to a big, heavily muscled man who Holly got the distinct impression you would not want to cross, and they were allowed upstairs.
The second floor was a little quieter, and had couches scattered around. Nikki and Holly headed over to the bar and ordered drinks, before making their way over to a group of couches that were set up in the back corner, near the railing that looked out over the dance floor.
Tobin and Frank were already there, both with drinks and Frank with his feet propped up on the table. Nikki collapsed onto the seat next to Tobin. He placed a comfortable arm around her. Holly sat down as well and absently placed her drink down. She ran a hand across her hair.
“What?” She looked up, startled.
Frank grinned. “I guess whatever you’re thinking of is more exciting than the rest of us since you just ignored the last two questions I asked.”
“Oh I’m sorry. What were they?”
“Forget that. They were boring. What I want to know now is what you’re thinking about?”
“It must be something, you look worried.”
“You do,” said Nikki. “Is something wrong?”
Holly hesitated and glanced towards Tobin.
He shrugged. “I’m off the clock.”
“Nothing really wrong,” said Holly slowly, “It’s just odd. Nikki, when we met up for dinner the other night, right before you showed up a man had come over to my table and given me a really strange message about how he needed to talk to Malcolm Grant and how I was supposed to tell him he couldn’t avoid it or something. I don’t know. It was very odd and I didn’t really understand it. But I thought he looked familiar and now just outside I saw him in the crowd. That’s where I know him from. He’s one of the paparazzi and I must have seen him taking pictures before. But it just makes it stranger that that’s who he is.”
“Or clears it up significantly,” said Frank. “He must have some dirt on Grant. I hope it’s something juicy. He’s such a stick in the mud and I for one would like the right to tell him to lighten up.”
“Grant’s fine. He’s just very professional,” said Holly.
“But this business is all personal. And I personally would like to tell him to lighten up.”
“You just haven’t forgiven him for the fact that he scolded you for coming into work with a hangover.”
“Some of my best work has been done while hung-over. He was stifling my artistic spirit.”
“Artistic stifling aside, I’m not about to side with any member of the paparazzi on anything,” said Holly.
Nikki shifted in her seat, looking out over the balcony.
“What did Grant say when you told him about it?” asked Frank. “I’ve have loved to seen his face.”
“I haven’t and I’m not going to. I don’t want to be involved.”
“Well that’s no fun,” said Frank. “You should always be involved in absolutely everything you possibly can. It adds spice to life.”
“I think I’ve had my fill of spice, thanks,” said Holly, taking a drink.
Frank stood up. “I haven’t. I’m going to get another drink. Alcohol always helps with spice. Anyone want a second? Alright. Be back.” He walked away.
Tobin chuckled. “An interview with him would be a walk in the park. He has no filter.”
Nikki smiled up at him. “That’s good?”
“It’s interesting and makes for a good interview subject. Unlike you, who has been trained too well.” He kissed her.
Holly looked away, feeling out of place and hoping Frank would get back quickly so she could feel less like a third wheel.
The noise from downstairs was getting louder and the dance floor more crowded. The music had been switched to something louder and people were raising their voices to match.
“Look who I ran into by the bar,” Frank announced, reappearing with a drink in hand and a woman trailing after him. “Cynthia, you remember Holly of course, but I don’t know that you’ve ever met Nikki Steele and this is Tobin Makem. This is Cynthia Tomes. Holls and I worked with her on The Box of Edward II. Loads of fun.”
Holly shot Frank a look. Even attending premiers and promotional events, Cynthia had yet to warm up to her any.
“Hey, it’s good to meet you,” said Nikki, standing up to shake Cynthia’s hand. “Join us for a drink.”
“Thank you, but I should go. My friend just had to leave so…” Something about Cynthia’s voice sounded a little nervous.
“Perfect, then there’s no one waiting for you,” said Frank. “Join us.”
Cynthia glanced at Holly but then shrugged. “Okay, fine.” She sat down.
“What can I get you?” said Frank. “It’s on me.”
“Gin and tonic please.”
“Great, I’ll go get it.” He stood up.
“You know on second thought,” said Holly, “I will take another one.”
“Coming right up,” said Frank with a knowing grin and wink.