"Another kickass show."
Emily sauntered backstage, taking a long, deep swig of mineral water as
she made her way back to her dressing room. "That was buzzing...Stuart,
is my mother back here? That was one of the best shows I've done in a
"Miss Gabor left the venue about a half hour ago, Miss." Stuart, her
bodyguard shook his head, reaching out to open the door for her. "I'm
afraid it was some urgent business problem. After all the chaos at the
hotel yesterday afternoon, she's been fielding this or that press
representative wanting to know the scoop. One of the papers even
suggested it was an attempt on your life, or something - hence why
she's got me following you everywhere right at the moment. I don't know
precisely what the call was about - but I think someone in
administration couldn't dot an i or cross a t without her express
"Typical." Emily rolled her eyes. "It figures. I put on one hell of a
show and she doesn't even get to see it."
She sent him a wry smile.
"You must've drawn the short straw, huh? Getting babysitting duty. I'm
all right, you know. Yesterday was a hoax, they proved there was
nothing even there. Strange people do strange things. Last night she
said she thought it was some kind of insane publicity stunt or
something along those lines. These things happen, and nothing odd
occured this evening. She needs to relax."
"I think it's called protecting her assets, miss." Stuart eyed her
keenly. "I've worked for your mother for eighteen years now, and I'll
tell you, she never does anything by halves. But, when she does do
something, she usually has a good reason for it. Let her have her way
in this one, huh? It's no bother to me, shepherding you between stage
and dressing room a few times."
He grinned at her.
"Contrary to public belief, you're not as scary as some of your press
"Thanks, I think." Emily punched him playfully on the arm. "Oh well. At
least it's you and not one of those creeps with no sense of humour. I
just wish she'd been here tonight. Everything went for me out there."
She shrugged, taking another swig of water.
"Oh well." She said resignedly. "I guess that's life."
She sat down in a vacant seat, tossing her jacket down onto the arm
beside her. Stuart leant up against the doorframe, folding his arms
across his chest as he did so.
"Are you staying?" Emily looked surprised. Stuart nodded.
"Your mother's orders. I'm to stay with you till she gets back." He
agreed apologetically. "I'm sorry."
"Well, if that's what she said, I guess that's what goes." Emily
sighed. "Not that I object to your company, but it's so completely not
necessary. There's enough security in this place already without me
needing a personal minder."
"Your mother did say to me that the timing of yesterday's hoax was
convenient." Stuart owned. "She wasn't sure it was quite as
coincidental as it seemed, it happening while you were staying there. I
think she has the fear your father might be involved in the business -
and she wants me to keep an eye peeled for any trouble."
"Bah. Dad couldn't care less about me now he knows he can't glean money
out of me." Emily said frankly. "He won't bother about me being in
Canada. It was a fluke, that's all. Yesterday, I mean. Some nutjob
playing power guru. Nothing else."
She flashed Stuart a smile.
"And I'm going to have a job getting changed with you here." She added.
Stuart pursed his lips.
"I suppose I could stand outside the door." He mused, casting her a
grin. "Your mother can't object to that. After all, I've seen you
safely in here, and all that."
"Precisely." Emily laughed. "Thanks, Stuart. And thanks for
understanding. I'm a big girl now - I don't need to be constantly
protected all the time."
"Well, take that up with the boss." Stuart said wisely. "Me, I'm going
to do my job. My position with your mother's company pays well and I've
three kids to find college funds for. I guess that means you're stuck
with me till she comes back - or till the car arrives to take you back
to the hotel. One or the other."
"Fine, I give." Emily held up her hands in mock surrender. "You wait
outside and I'll get changed and wait for Mommy like a good little
girl. I'll even lock the door. Noone's going to get fired because of
"Are you sure you know what to do?"
In the rear carpark of the venue, Eric sent his companion a questioning
look. Harriet rolled her eyes, nodding her head.
"I already got rid of your Gabor woman, didn't I?" She asked, flipping
her cellphone closed as if to emphasise her point. "And I'm perfectly
capable of playing up to some guy. You should have faith in me for
that, Eric - it's the one thing I don't need briefing on."
"I don't want you to seduce him." Eric frowned, his brows knitting
together. "That won't do."
"Why not?" Harriet looked surprised. "When you asked me to take care of
him, I thought you meant..."
"Well, you thought wrong." Eric rubbed his chin. "I did some digging on
the security team tonight - called a few people I know, got them to
confirm this or that. If she's got an ounce of sense in her brain,
Pizzazz will have dumped the girl off on the man she most trusts not to
be distracted. That means he's not likely to fall for a few lines from
a silly blonde - and I need you to get him away from her enough to make
"Fine." Harriet pouted. "What do you suggest I do, then? Attack him
with my pepper spray? Come on, Eric. You said this wasn't some big
illegal venture. That you just wanted to talk to her. Why all the prior
research and behind-scenes plotting?"
"Because my greatest weapon is never to go into an encounter unprepared
for every eventuality." Eric said simply. "A strength Pizzazz doesn't
share. No, Harriet. I don't want you to seduce the man on duty. I want
you to pretend to be a fan."
"A...fan?" Harriet raised an eyebrow. "Of the security guard or of your
"Of Emily, you silly girl." Eric looked impatient. "I want you to go at
it bull-headed, like you want to gain access to see your idol. Be
obsessive and hysterical - you're a woman, you should be able to manage
that. The more, the better. Screech and pass out and do whatever it
takes to get him away from her and her dressing room. Do you
"I'm not six years old, you know. I do get it." Harriet sighed,
reaching up to primp her fair hair idly. "And I'll do my best. Though
in truth, I'd rather seduce him. At least that's a game I'm used to
playing. Hysterical outpourings have never really been my forte."
"But you'll try?"
"Oh of course. I'll try." Harriet nodded. "I owe you too much to let
you down. Besides, you are only going to talk to her, right? That's all
this is about. It's not your fault if her bitch mother won't let you
"That's all, and my thought exactly." Eric agreed. He eyed her
carefully for a moment, taking in the sincerity in her expression.
"Then we're on the same track. Good. I'll give you fifteen minutes or
so to get his attention, and play the fanatical groupie. Get him as far
away from her as possible. I'll tackle my daughter. Don't worry about
getting back to me. When he throws you out of the building, slip round
the back here and wait by the car. I'll meet you here."
"Got it." Harriet nodded. She grinned at him.
"Wish me luck." She added. "I might need it."
"You'd better not." Eric told her acidly. "Luck is a luxury I can't
"Oh, you're always the same." Harriet told him affectionately, running
her fingers through his greying hair. Then she was gone across the
tarmac, pushing her way in through the fire exit door and into the
Eric leant back against his car, letting out his breath in a rush.
"Right." He said aloud. "Now for phase two. Emily...and the business
proposal that even she can't be too stupid to turn down."
Meanwhile, Harriet had made her way through the warren of passages that
led to the backstage area, hesitating as she heard the sound of someone
whistling an upbeat tune. Taking a glance around the corner, she saw
the stocky security guard, glancing at his watch and tapping his hands
absently on the wall behind him. She narrowed her gaze thoughtfully,
peering at the notice on the door behind him. From where she was
hidden, she could only make out part of the name, but that it ended in
'ena' told her that she had found the right place.
She paused, glancing around her again for the best way to begin her
charade. A restroom caught her eye from across the hall and she darted
inside, glancing at her reflection in the mirror. She sighed, reaching
up to touch her cheek.
"My make up is perfect. The things I do for you, Eric." She muttered,
hesitating and then turning on the cold tap. Running her fingers
underneath the cool shards of water, she splashed her face, smudging
her eyeliner and mascara to make it look like she had been crying.
Running her hand through her hair a couple of times to break it's neat
styling, she took another critical look at herself. Then, with a
resigned smile, she turned her back on the mirror, sauntering back out
into the corridor. A moment's check told her the guard was still there,
and she took a deep breath, steeling herself. Then she scampered out
into the corridor, casting a glance behind her as if she were being
"Leave me alone!" She exclaimed. "I have to see her! I have to see her!"
"Woah, girlie!" Stuart was alert in a minute, taking a couple of steps
forward as he registered the fact he was not alone. "Where are you
going in such a hurry? Back here is restricted, you know."
"I want to see Sirena!" Harriet raised her tones a couple of pitches,
pushing the guard's arm aside and banging frantically on the door of
the dressing room. "I just want to see her! I just want to talk to her!
"I'm sorry, honey. No fans are allowed back here and Ms Gabor is
occupied." Stuart said firmly, grasping the girl firmly by the arm.
"I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to leave."
Harriet stared up at him, forcing tears to fall as she affected her
best angry expression.
"Let me go, you jerk!" She exclaimed. "Get your hands off me! I'm not
just any old fan! She's my hero! I have to see her! Do you have any
idea how long I've waited for this? You can't send me away! I have to
"Well then, you need to apply to her fan club like everyone else."
Stuart was gentle, but unmoved. He took a few steps down the corridor,
releasing her arm. "Run along now, girlie. I don't want any trouble."
"Well it's tough, because I do!" Harriet shoved past him, making a
beeline for the door of the dressing room once more and beginning to
struggle with the handle.
"You can't go in there!" Stuart was on her in a moment. "Come away from
"I want to speak to Sirena!" Harriet was well into her role now,
forcing more tears to spill down her cheeks. "Let me in! Let me in, you
bastard! She'll see me, I know she will! I know she cares about her
fans! She's the only one who can understand...please, let me in!"
"Now Miss, you need to calm down." Stuart pulled Harriet away from the
dressing room door. "We can't have this kind of thing back here. You'll
upset Miss Gabor."
"What in hell is going on out there, Stuart?" Emily demanded from
inside the dressing room at that moment, and Harriet's gaze flickered
towards the door.
"Nothing I can't handle, Miss Gabor." Stuart called back. "Just a lost
and rather hysterical fan."
"Tell her to stop beating my door down, will you? I can't hear myself
"Don't worry, Miss. It's all under control."
"Let me in!" Harriet let out a piercing shriek. "I just want to see
her! I just want to talk to her!"
"Oh, for God's sake!" Emily's voice sounded impatient now. "Damn well
get rid of her, will you? It's earsplitting and I've already had a busy
night. I'm not up for dealing with hystrionics tonight."
"Stuart, get rid of her or I will come out there and do it myself."
Emily interrupted. "She's giving me a headache."
"Very well, Miss Gabor." Stuart shrugged his shoulders, gripping
Harriet firmly by the wrist. She fought him, her gaze flitting back
along the corridor as if in search of her partner-in-crime, but Stuart
misinterpreted her look, shaking his head.
"No, Miss. You're coming this way." He said quietly. "I'll show you
out. You need to cool down. Too much excitement for one night, that's
all. You just come with me."
As he led her away from the dressing room door, Harriet allowed herself
one final glance behind her, a slight smile touching her lips as she
saw Eric emerge at the other end of the hall. She offered him a wink,
and he returned it with a smile of his own. Then, as one last flourish,
she struggled against the guard, bursting into full blown sobs as he
pulled her towards the door.
"Now now, Miss, you stop that." Stuart remained calm, tapping her
gently on the shoulder. "You'll make yourself worse. You're just a
little too excited."
"I will get in to see her." Harriet pounded her fist against him. "I
She faltered, stumbling and dragging two or three heavy gulps of air
into her lungs.
"You've hurt me!" She shrieked. "I can't brea...breathe. I can't
"Miss, please, calm down!" Now Stuart was alarmed. "You'll
hyperventilate...Oh, this is no good. I'll have to take you to the
"No!" Harriet resisted, although her eyes lit up at the idea of further
distracting her companion. She gulped again, swallowing hard.
"I'm gonna hurl." She said thickly, glancing back towards the studio
building. As Stuart put a supportive arm around her, leading her across
the car park to a building on the far side, she pursed her lips,
wondering how Eric's encounter was going.
"And he owes me big time for this." She mused. "I've never put on as
good a show in my life...and that's saying something. Now, how best to
ditch Mr Security here...without him getting suspicious that this whole
deal is a set-up. The last thing I want to do is give some medical
moron my name. Names are ways to trace people and I don't want that. It
might get back to Eric and he might decide he doesn't want to protect
me any more. I've served my purpose with him anyway, pretty much. It's
been long enough for him not to need me around any more and I don't
doubt he knows it. I just hope tonight goes well. Otherwise, what'll it
mean for me?"
DEAR FATHER: PART ONE
Two: Heading North
Three: First Show
Four: A Hotel Scare
Six: Eric's Gambit
Seven: Under The Radar
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