Part One: North Of The Border
Chapter Five:  Diversion

"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 long time."

"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 permission."

"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 reels."

"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 me."

"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 my move."

"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."

"" Harriet raised an eyebrow. "Of the security guard or of your daughter?"

"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 understand?"

"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 near her."

"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 afford."

"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 building.

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 followed.

"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! Meet 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 see her!"

"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 that door!"

"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 think!"

"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 will...I will..."

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 breathe!"

"Miss, please, calm down!" Now Stuart was alarmed. "You'll hyperventilate...Oh, this is no good. I'll have to take you to the medical people."

"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?"


Prologue: Toronto
Chapter One: Preparations
Chapter Two: Heading North
Chapter Three: First Show
Chapter Four: A Hotel Scare
Chapter Five: Diversion
Chapter Six: Eric's Gambit
Chapter Seven: Under The Radar
Chapter Eight: Flight

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