Josh pulled on his coat and headed down to the stage door. He still had gunk in his hair but sod it. It was only a matinee crowd, and there’d be some people who hadn’t even paid to see the show. Hangers-on who brought the most bizarre items for him to sign. Last week, someone had thrust a DVD cover in Josh’s face and it had taken a while for him to realise it was the American edition of a film in which he’d made his first ever professional appearance. As an extra in a police line-up. It had been a day’s work and a bit of a laugh, but the cakes had been stale, he remembered. He’d signed the damn thing even though he wasn’t actually credited.
He always hoped for rain. A good downpour would deter most of the autograph hunters. Only the most stalwart (i.e. the committed stalkers) would linger in the alley, where there was no cover. And he would take his time, hoping to deter a few more. And the rain would be the perfect excuse to make a quick getaway, with his most heartfelt and profuse apologies, of course.
But no. The bastard sun was bastard shining.
There’d be tons of them out there. And Josh had hoped to be able to nip to the pub to meet Freddie, maybe have a bite to eat, do some catching up. It had been ages!
But no. There was no one there. The alley that ran alongside the theatre was empty. Not so much as a discarded crisp packet.
Odd, thought Josh. He ducked back indoors. The reception desk was unmanned. Where was Old Whatsisname? Why wasn’t he at his post? Anyone could get in.
Josh went back out to the alley. He supposed he should count his blessings. He’d be able to slip through Leicester Square and meet Freddie early. They could have longer together.
As the stage door closed behind him, a chill went through Josh’s body. A tingle ran the length of his spine. The sky darkened overhead. Typical summer in London, he tutted. He touched his forehead and his fingertips came away wet and sticky. That gunk they make him wear to age him up… But no. This was blood and not that tacky, glistening stage blood either. This was Josh’s own blood. The realisation made Josh giddy. He put out a hand against the wall to steady himself but his legs buckled beneath him and he crumpled to the ground.
As he lay there, he gazed up at the sky. The sun was out again and he could hear the excited clamour of people. The fans were there after all. They would spot him any second. They would help him. His fans wouldn’t let him down.
But no. Josh continued to lie there unattended. He could see the autograph hunters in their padded anoraks and ugg boots, their backpacks full of memorabilia they’d want him to scrawl all over.
But no one noticed him. He tried to move, to speak, to cry out. But no.
He could make no sound. He could only lie there, looking up and listening.
“Can you believe it’s been a year?” a nearby fan said to her companion. She sounded American. Or Canadian perhaps.
“I know,” the companion sighed. “They say it happened right here at the stage door. They never caught the guy. Or woman. Or whoever it was.”
“Makes you think, doesn’t it?” said the first.
“But I prefer his replacement,” added her friend. “He seems much nicer. Always has a smile and seems to enjoy meeting his adoring public.”
“Yeah…,” the first one became pensive. “Do you think that’s what happened? Some fan got disgruntled, got fobbed off once too much and bashed poor Josh’s head in?”
“Wouldn’t surprise me. Now, get your phone out. I’m relying on you to take a picture. Here comes Freddie.”