Disclaimer: I don't own Motorolla Razr, the Cherry Blossom Festival, or J.K. Rowling.
The second I walked into Mr. Jones's office, I knew I was in trouble. The smell of cigarette smoke greeted me along with the sight of his sports jacket tossed haphazardly over a swivel chair, instead of draped across his slumped shoulders. A half-empty coffee mug rested uneasily among the impeccably neat stacks of paper on his desk. In the mug floated a soggy cigarette butt or three. Since he only smoked when stressed, I prepared for the worst and made my presence known. He didn't turn to look at me, but instead ran his fingers through tousled salt-and-pepper hair, revealing the beginnings of male pattern baldness.
This was bad.
"Our sales have dropped again." Saying this, he moved to face me, a worried look in his eyes. The Informant was in danger due to the evolution of press in the twenty and twenty-first century. Scandals and entertainment news, once found mostly in juicy tabloids or under the bylines of yellow journalists, now littered the covers of major mainstream magazines all across the United States. Thus, more competition arose from popular media, and a loss of demand for Jones's line of work occurred. If I hadn't been filthy rich already, I'd be worried for my future.
But tabloids were Mr. Jones's life. He had an ear for gossip and a creative mind perfect for beefing up a story. Add in a bit of business sense, a handful of cunning paparazzi, and you have the perfect combination for a career liberal media. Not to mention that The Informant was stationed just outside of Washington D.C., which gave us all better shots at politicians and a reasonable commute to cities on the Eastern Seaboard. Jones had all those advantages, but little else. If the tabloid failed, he'd be lost. And from the look on his face, I knew he needed me to publish something outrageous enough to keep the paper afloat. Joy.
"The Cherry Blossom Festival is coming up next week, and you know it attracts all sorts of dignitaries and famous people to the area. One particular celebrity in town this time is a young artist, new on the scene. I don't know much about him except that he's said to have been seen with Gina Bell on and off again for the past half year. His name's Mason White. Google him, snoop around, and get me something scandalous."
I nodded to him, plans and vendettas already slithering around in my brain. Gina Bell. The name itself made me want to spit.
The girl had made her fame by using those pouty red lips of hers to crank out sultry songs. She was tall and curvy in all the places that mattered to her sexual image, but impossibly thin where it didn't. Unfortunate for me, this didn't apply to her brain. Nympho or not, the chit was cunning, calculating, and smooth. Her hard work that had brought her from white trash America to Hollywood's big screen and the TRL countdown reflected her wits. Her glorious red hair was notorious throughout the world, but she didn't date. Her image exuded sensual virgin, even though her blue eyes darted with the eldest of knowledges. The media was constantly littered with gambles for who would bring down the virginal wall. Heartthrobs, millionaires, and various celebrities arrogantly proclaimed that they would claim Miss Bell for their very own. And Gina soaked up the attention like a big-boobed sponge.
A flicker of her illustrious eyelashes innocently told the world that she was nothing but a piece of pretty meat for the male population to sauté and savor. It was enough to make any respectful multi-award winning New York Times best seller author recently graduated high school to gag. Well, maybe that was just me. But even before I dug the dirt, I knew something was up. No one could exude that much sexual aura without scandal. And I confirmed this knowledge two months ago when I found those world renowned, pumped-up lips pleasuring a United States senator.
I had been following Miss Bell for quite some time, determined to hit payday. After a few weeks, I hit gold. Unfortunately, a handful of seasoned paparazzi knew of my nose for a scandal and decided to follow me around. Before my story was in print, they had memory cards full of photographic evidence of Miss Bell's sexual expedition.
Suing a tabloid just makes the celebrity look guilty of the accused crimes, Miss Bell undoubtedly realized, so she paid off the camera men and filed a restraining order against me. Her body guards had seen the flashes from the cameras and rounded us up for interrogation. Of course, the paparazzi blamed it all on me. I was the "hot shot reporter" according to them, and found myself in court up to my neck in trespassing offenses. I had only broken a couple of laws, well, a couple of handfuls…
But that's beside the point. The thing is, I hate Miss Gina Bell and I hate, Hate, HATE paparazzi. So, in an act of vengeance against my first true hate, I would bring her down. Artsy lover-boy or not, she would fall from dignity.
With a smile, I assured Mr. Jones that he'd have the story, and quickly made for the door.
"And Nicole" he added. I turned around, already impatient to start my vengeful planning. "No assault and battery of the paparazzi this time. I pay them, you see, and can't afford another apology bonus to pay their medical bills."
I smirked. Stupid paparazzi.
The beginning of April was milder than I'd have guessed; the breeze was gentle so that I only needed a sweater, but not so calm that I could take it off with out any comfort. The scents of the city filled my nostrils as cars and busses smogged up the atmosphere. Tourists were everywhere, which meant that the street vendors littered the sidewalks to an annoying capacity. On a normal day I would grumble about it or at the very least curse them mentally, but my mind was too full to act the usual. The leather of my laptop bag bumped comfortably against my leg and hip; making me itch to reach my apartment so I could google Mr. White and begin Gina Bell's demise. I tend to hold grudges.
Above the black and gray cement, cherry blossoms were beginning to bloom. I knew that somewhere people were frantically preparing for the festival activities that would occur later in the month. Cherry blossom art galleries, Japanese exhibits, paddle boat rides on the Potomac, and various child friendly activities were in the process of formulation. If only I could get into a meeting to find where Mr. Mason White would be presenting… Most likely an art exhibit, I presumed, since his name wasn't Japanese and was well known for his art. I decided to save active inquiry for after I had some facts and turned my train of thought to other money making stations. As if on cue, my Motorolla Razr began cranking out the ringer specific to my publisher.
"Jerry, how are you?"
"Depends on how close you are to being finished."
I sighed away from the speaker. The latest book in my suspense series was due to the press in less than a month. It still had to go through the editing and final business stages before it was anywhere near ready, and I still had several chapters left to go. A new plot twist had appeared out of no where, leading me to an additional hundred pages or some before I was ready to wrap up.
"Jerry, you may want to push the printing date back a few weeks. I've just hit a major plot twist. I promise you this one will be juicier, more enthralling than ever, but I need more time. I've been editing as I go…"
"You're one of the best for good first drafts, but we need it ASAP. We've got so many advance copies lined up- the press is having a field day want an interview from the infamous Nicholi Eans! Until we get that book out-"
"I understand. I'll do the best I can."
"Your contract clearly states-"
"I've also done much more than the contract demanded. I've published two books for each one required of me. I've taken on a public job recently to give me new experiences and I can assure you that though this book is past due, it will provide us both with more money than you can hope for."
Jerry grunted. He hadn't changed one bit since I'd met him when I was in the tenth grade. Anonymously, I'd submitted work to a publishing company under the pseudonym Nicholi Eans. Through sheer miracle, Jerry, a head agent in a major publishing company, had found my work and published it. I made millions off of one book, and since then have produced five more. I'm working on the sixth.
"I guess I'll wait. Who could say no to Nicholi Eans, the most famous author since J.K. Rowling?"
I smiled. Secret fame made me feel good.
After a few more jests and general conversation, Jerry was off to his world of shuffling money and papers, and I was climbing the steps to my apartment complex, ready to resume sabotage of someone who would eventually have a profound impact on my life.