The cameras flashed incessantly, making the movie star squint. He put a hand up as a shield but the flashes were coming from all directions. He hurried along the red carpet, ignoring all catcalls and questions. A limousine was waiting. The movie star nipped into the back seat and breathed a sigh of relief to be behind the tinted windows.
“Drive!” he urged.
The driver drove.
The movie star’s p.a. was also on the back seat.
“You know, Brad,” she drawled, without looking up from the tablet she was scrolling through. “You’re going to have to say something sooner or later. Sooner, preferably. Throw them a bone.”
Brad looked pained. He poured himself a generous whisky from the car’s bar.
“It’s none of their business,” he grumbled. “And why is there no ice in this car? What do I pay you people for?”
The p.a. pouted. Her scrolling finger came to a stop. She tapped on a link. “Here,” she held out the tablet. “This is exactly what I’m talking about. You can put an end to all the speculation by just coming clean. Yeah, you’ve had a bit of work done. So what? You’re just keeping yourself looking your best for your fans.”
Brad shook his head.
“Listen, just admit to a bit of tightening around the eyes, the occasional face peel. There’s nothing wrong with it. You’re just looking after your best asset. Your face is your fortune after all.”
The limousine pulled up outside Brad’s mansion in the Hollywood hills.
“I’ll think about it,” Brad conceded. He gave the p.a. his whisky glass before he got out. “Goodnight.”
The p.a. closed her eyes and shook her head. She and the driver watched the movie star key in his entry code and disappear through a side gate. He didn’t turn to wave.
“He’s changed,” the p.a. diagnosed. “Take me home, Simon.”
Brad marched straight to his wine cellar. At the back, a secret door gave access to a private room he had had stricken from the plans. No one knew it was there.
He paced up and down, making the man chained to the room’s only chair eye his progress nervously.
“A little tightening around the eyes!” Brad scoffed. “As if I’m going to admit to that. When this,” he circled his hand to indicate his entire face, “is a masterpiece, a miracle of cosmetic surgery.”
The man on the chair hung his bandaged head.
“Listen,” Brad lifted the man’s chin. “It’s not forever. I’ll have my guy do the repair job on you. Then, if you promise not to tell anyone, you can have your old life back. I’m getting tired of the movie business anyway.”
The man on the chair grunted, jerking his chin out of Brad’s hand.
“I have to be sure,” Brad told him. “I have to be sure you’ll let me go and there’ll be no repercussions. I keep telling you it was an accident. An accident followed by a mix-up. The doctors thought I was you and you were the nobody who’d crashed his car into the famous film star. It cost me a fortune to buy them all off. But I had access to your bank accounts by then, of course. Don’t worry; I’ve made all that money back and more while you’ve been sitting down here. Really think we’ve got a shot at the Oscar this year. You’re on the up and up, my friend.”
With that, Brad turned on his heels and strode from the secret room.
Alone again, the real Brad shrugged. An Oscar! Well, well!
He lifted his hand to scratch his mangled nose. He hadn’t found the right moment to tell his captor he’d been free of his ropes for months. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go back into the heady world of stardom just yet, if at all. For the time being, he was enjoying the solitude of this unorthodox retreat. And he still had the run of the mansion while Fake Brad was out. And, he conceded, he seems to be doing a better job of it than I ever did.
Let’s see how long we can keep up this charade before the cracks really begin to show…