That night, Livy was supposed to do a full evening’s erotica—art, treadmill, striptease and chat—with Karen and a photographer. I figured it was time for the coup de grace—I arranged for Lance to show up in costume.
“I was wondering when you were going to call,” he said when I called him. “You can’t wait so long between appearances—if he gets too desperate, you can’t tell what might happen.”
“’He?’—Who’s ‘he’, Lance? The Pale Guy?”
“Yeah, you don’t know what he might—“
“Lance, he’s a character we made up. I can tell exactly what might happen, because I write the story.”
“Sure, sure,” Lance mumbled. “But he won’t like it. Anyway, the fans won’t like it.”
“Yeah, I have my fans,” he answered, in a tone that dared me to be surprised by this.
“Where do you get in touch with your fans?” I asked, trying to figure out how this was possible.
“I took the name ‘PaleGuy@hotmail.com’—you should see all the mail I get.”
Be calm, I told myself. Pretend he’s your ten-year old. Think of something to say that doesn’t start with ‘You ignoramus.’
“Lance, let’s try to focus here. You have fans of the Pale Guy writing you at hotmail—is that correct?”
“Sure. They think he’s really cool, and I really got to understand his motivation and stuff, talking to them.”
My lower lip was going to bleed if I bit it any harder.
“Lance, what if—just for argument’s sake—the police decided to take our little game seriously? Like tomorrow night, for example, when you’re supposed to appear in front of a writer and photographer from a national magazine. You have to give your real email address to hotmail, don’t you?”
“Oh come on—I’m not an imbecile,” he said, unpersuasively confronting the foremost question in my mind. “I use my friend’s old free email—he died in a store fire last year. They can’t trace it to me.”
I gulped hard and moved on. I mean, this is the 21st Century—Andy Warhol is old hat already, conventional wisdom—why shouldn’t the Pale Guy have a fan club?
“Lance, you don’t have any other email addresses, do you?” I was still a little freaked about the email I’d gotten from ‘the real’ Pale Guy—it couldn’t be Lance, could it?
“No. Just mine and his,” he mumbled, absently enough that I believed him. Lance was beyond weird, but, despite his size, there was nothing really threatening about him. I couldn’t imagine him writing those notes.
So we started preparing for the nights extravaganza. We would have a decent audience—Livy had told the regulars she had a photo shoot that night, so they’d go online for that—and we’d have a national magazine witness to the dangerous stalker who was menacing the plucky Webcam artist.
Lance and I painstakingly worked out the mechanics of his appearance. I had rigged up a harness on the flat roof of the house, that would allow him to lower himself down onto the deck behind Livy, and then raise himself back up to the roof again. Once on the roof, he’d work his way across to the spare bedroom, get into his policeman’s uniform and go outside to take the police report. It was—literally—too neat to be true.
That night, we’re all in the living room—me working the cameras, Karen and the photographer coaching Livy through the shoot—and the Pale Guy suddenly hovers down onto the deck in the background. I kept one eye on the chat groups and the posts exploded when Lance showed up.
Karen saw it too. She was asking Livy questions and taking answers from her and the chat group, and she saw the first couple of Pale Guy sightings and swiveled around in her chair, looking to the deck.
“Who the hell is that?” she exclaimed. Just like in the script.
Lance moved, moved his shoulders and his arms, pulsing, as though trying to grab at Livy through the glass. Then he glided across the deck.
I’d suggested it to him originally just because he’d insisted on some motivation, something to work on as an actor. But he actually got it down, and it was positively bizarre to watch. He glided as though his feet never touched the ground. I could hear the harness scraping slightly on the roof above, but no one else seemed to notice.
Livy and Karen stepped back from the windows, toward the kitchen. Karen looked more frightened than Livy. This was going just according to plan.
And then the stupid photographer decided to get heroic. I’d seen that he was enjoying his work, shooting Livy. He’d been flirting all day, and she’d been flirting back—that’s one way to make sure you get good photos: seduce the photographer. Livy couldn’t help but seduce every man she met anyway—this was just one more. But now he decided the scene needed a pointless act of heroism, to impress the girl.
Before Lance could get back in position to hover up to the roof again, the photog barged through the doorway and tried to tackle him. Visions of doom raced through my head in that one split-second as the photographer hurtled toward my monster.
Lance shocked me by sidestepping lightly—the photog went hurtling right past him. Then Lance lifted him bodily off the deck and deposited him upside down in a tall planter we’d intended to put a tree in someday. While Karen was calling 911 and I was thanking God, the Pale Guy hovered back up onto the roof and disappeared.
Karen turned around and saw Lance’s feet flying up above the deck windows and yelped, “Where is he going?”
“I’ll check the roof—you stay here and protect her,” I yelled and ran for the guest bedroom.
Lance was inside, gasping for breath and clutching his chest. “You didn’t tell me about that!”
“I didn’t know about that! He’s a freelance—he’s on his own. We’ve got to get you out of here!”
“You mean I don’t get to be the policeman?” Lance complained, between wheezes.
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