Holly woke up the next day exhausted. It had been nearly five in the morning when she’d finally dropped off. She had the unpleasant sick feeling of not enough sleep and she was quite prepared to roll over and fall back asleep. In fact she wasn’t quite she what had woken her in the first place until she heard the phone ringing. In some dim, recess of her mind, she vaguely thought that this wasn’t the first time the phone had rung this morning, but she’d been able to ignore up till now and just gone back to bed. But it wasn’t so easy this time.
She sat up and frowned. Whoever it was, was being pretty insistent. Reluctantly, she got up and walked out to the hall where she had left her cellphone the night before. The ringing stopped almost instantly.
Annoyed, Holly stomped back to bed. Phone still in hand, she reached out to place it down on the nightstand when she saw a slew of notifications alerting her to missed calls and texts. They seemed to be from several people. Victor, Peter, Evelyn, Walsh, Victor again, Peter, then Victor again. And he’d sent a text too. She opened it.
Holly, we need to talk about the photographs and Antigone’s premiere. Call me. –VM
Photographs? Holly blinked. She’d already had her fair share of sleazy photos finding their way online and she suddenly had a sinking feeling it had happened again. But what could they have been of this time? She pulled up the web browser on her phone and typed her own name into the search bar.
Five minutes later she was jumping out of bed and pulling on the nearest clothes she could find.
Evelyn sighed dramatically at the pounding on her door. There was a bell. Why did people insist on pounding? She answered the door and wasn’t terribly surprised to see Holly standing in the doorway looking furious.
“Did you see this?” Holly thrust her phone into Evelyn’s hands and stormed into the apartment.
“Good morning to you too dear.” Evelyn glanced at the browser page Holly had up on the phone. “Yes I did see it.”
“I don’t understand how this happened!”
“Well you were out in public. Surely by now you’re not still surprised that the paparazzi take an interest, are you?”
“That’s not what I meant. Did you see what the article said? Did you look at the pictures?”
“Of course I looked at them. I tried to call you dear but you weren’t picking up.”
“But the pictures-”
“Really there’s no need to be upset about all this. It’s not like you were caught doing anything terribly indecent.”
“Now I know the words of the article aren’t very kind. But no one who knows you will really think that you’re,” she glanced at the article, “‘sleeping your way back into the career you wrecked’. Holly I know it’s upsetting but it was bound to happen.”
“You don’t understand!”
“Of course I understand. Someone took pictures of you in a private moment and that is upsetting. And now this article is putting the absolute worst spin on it that they can. I understand that. It’s hardly new though, they’ve been doing it for months now. So really-”
“You don’t honestly believe it all!”
“I just said that I didn’t,” said Evelyn, rolling her eyes. “Now sit down and I’ll pour us some drinks.”
“No. Listen to me! The photos are the problem!”
“What’s wrong with them? You’re on a date.”
“I’m not on a date!”
“It certainly looks like it. You’re holding his hand in this photo, and then here you’re hugging him here and well there is your expression.”
“Your expression. See the way you’re looking at him? That certainly looks like love to me.”
“But I didn’t look at him that way!”
“Holly there is nothing wrong here. You don’t have to be ashamed about dating an older man. Lots of people in Hollywood do it. In fact when I was twenty-five I dated a sixty year old for a while. It’s perfectly normal. And Victor is a wonderful man and the two of you have always seemed close-”
“No! I am not dating Victor McCall and those photos are a fake!”
Evelyn raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure! I mean yes, I went to that café with McCall a few weeks ago on the day Antigone wrapped. And I did hug him goodbye at the end because he’d been really nice to me. But I never held his hand like that. And I certainly did not look at him like that.”
“They’re awfully convincing fakes.”
“I don’t care if they’re convincing! I know they’re not real! I was there for crying out loud.”
“Could they have been taken out of context? You know someone snapping a few shots when the two of you were looking the most…intimate?”
“I’ve never looked ‘intimate’ as you put it with McCall.”
“There’s nothing wrong if you have. He’s an extremely nice man. You could do worse. One might even suggest that you have done worse,” said Evelyn a little tactlessly.
“I don’t care if he was the pope! It just didn’t happen.”
“Well, if it was the pope then it really would be a scandal.”
“Dear.” Evelyn took her hand and led her over to the sofa. “Alright, so you say the photographs are fake. But what if they are? Does it matter? You can deny them and that’s that. I know the article says some ugly things but-”
“But that’s important! The entire Antigone premiere is going to be based around whether or not we can become popular to an online audience. They have to like us. And I’ve already been looking online. This story has been up for only a few hours and people have already started to say some awful things. McCall bought Antigone lock, stock, and barrel from Montell Studios. We put out the story that it was because he really believed in the movie and thought it was a great film that people should be able to have the opportunity to see. And now everyone is saying it’s because…well…” Holly let out an exhausted sigh and buried her head in her hands.
“Now Holly, it’s hardly over yet.”
“I don’t know. This whole thing is already getting picked up by other tabloids. And I just can’t get over the idea that Grant must have something to do with this. He’s been behind all those other tabloid attacks recently. And now this comes out of nowhere? I-, wait a second. Grant.” Holly took her phone back from Evelyn and examined the photographs more closely. “That dirty, little, rat.”
“Clint Walker. Peter and I met him at that café where these pictures were taken. He asked to meet there specifically. The outfit I’m wearing in the pictures is the one I was wearing then not when I went there with McCall. And I held Peter’s hand, not Victor’s.”
“And you looked at Peter that way too?” asked Evelyn innocently. Holly ignored the question.
“Clint must have been following me when I went there with McCall. He even had the same table picked out when Peter and I met him. He pulled out my chair to make sure I’d sit where I did before.”
“I see. So he duplicated the scene as much as he possibly could so he could more easily doctor the photos to look authentic.”
“No wonder he didn’t actually have anything to say to us. It was never about talking over anything, it was just to get us there. He asked Peter too so that when Clint stepped out of the café, I’d be left talking to Peter.” Holly glanced up, a determined expression on her face. “Can we prove it?”
“What? That the photos were doctored? I suppose. If we send them to an expert. I’m sure Clint must have done an excellent job if he was able to convince the tabloid that they were legitimate but if they’re really fake it should only be a matter of time before somebody can prove it. Especially someone trained in that.”
“Good. Then that’s what we’ll do.” She stood up.
“Where are you going?”
It came out as almost a growl: “I’m going to go have a little word or two with Clint.”