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First pages

CHAPTER 1

A friend once told me a woman would run naked into the street to save her baby, but a man would stop to put on his pants first. I didn’t buy it—until now.

For ten minutes, I had watched this gal, dressed somewhat like an alien kangaroo, bounce giddily across the floor in front of two cameras, a production crew, and a few hundred paid extras. If she forced herself to such extremes for the insignificant pay she earned, no doubt she would march through hell without hesitation if some important matter faced her. No way could I expose myself to such embarrassment, not for fifty dollars, not for a million. When I undertook this job, I never imagined it would lead me to a crowded movie set where I would attempt to behave like an experienced extra. All day I had tried to melt into the masses, but six-foot-six of quaking flesh didn’t conceal easily.

No need to look again at the picture in my inner jacket pocket to know for sure I had found my missing girl. I located her three friends too, all altered versions of the pictures I carried, but after a few mental adjustments, I could see they matched. My third day of humiliation and the job neared completion. If she would give me her address, I could leave this land of shorter people and go back to Chicago, but until that happened, fear would reign.

No one who had witnessed my terrorized bearing the past few days would have seen in me a police officer of twenty years, nine of them SWAT—a man trained to intimidate. Some high-risk, tactical, counter sniper, search and rescue, undercover operation involving weapons of mass destruction would feel cozy next to the present situation. Sadly, I left those days behind me two years ago when I turned forty-two, not because forty-two disqualifies one for police work, but because I relentlessly abused my body for too long, and it insisted on a break. Even when I politely asked it to perform some strenuous task, it answered back sarcastically or utterly refused.

Now I had to be satisfied with any job my detective friend, Bob Caine, threw my way. Today I found a missing person for him; tomorrow I might perform boring security work for a big corporation. My wallet approved of the work, it paid better than retirement, but I missed the action.

No feeling of satisfaction accompanied this newest conquest. I guess I could call it a noble cause, a father paying a detective to locate his too-long-gone grown daughter, but a twenty-nine-year-old runaway was pushing it a little far. Evidently, remorse or love or some other redeeming reason drove him to find her. Heck, the man had money, so motives didn’t count. The girl probably got too busy living her life and forgot about Mom and Dad the last time she changed her address. I couldn’t explain the changed identity. She and her three friends in no way resembled the pictures Bob had given me, but maybe that was just Hollywood and the movie industry. The client had insisted on haste since the girl’s mother suffered health problems. Bob and I both knew that a client often buried the truth under a pile of lies, but it was a job.

“You haven’t done this kind of work before, have you?” my missing person said as she stopped at the clothes rack that I gripped for moral support.

I liked the laughter in her green eyes and the friendly smile on her perky face.  I hadn’t expected it to be this easy. They never, ever, came to me.

“My third day. Someone told me I could earn a quick paycheck this way. I believe I’d rather starve.”

“It must not have been that bad.”

Either my acting had improved or else she was used to liars. While I tried to think of something witty to say, a real girl, dressed in white shorts and a California suntan, stepped out of that ridiculous costume and smiled at me again.

“You survived the first two days and came back for more punishment.”

“I barely survived. I hid in the bathroom most of the time.”

“You’re the one who shouted after they signaled for silence, aren’t you?”

“Yep. I’d finally grasped that extras were supposed to shout, and then everyone shut up. . . . I was the one who left their cell phone on during that bedroom scene too.”

“Stay with me, and I’ll steer you through the rest of the day. Extras return to holding now. We’ll have time to get something to eat at craft services.”

“Not me. They ran me off—rudely.”

“We can’t prevent the rudeness. It thrives here. But you are allowed to eat. Take all you want—I’ll protect you.”

With her confident backing, I headed for the table I had eyed all morning. She immediately grabbed my arm.

“Wrong table. That’s for crew and SAG actors—members of the Screen Actors Guild. Our table’s over here.”

“But their table has meat . . . and candy bars.”

“Ours isn’t so bad.” She led me through the milling crowds. “Hurry, before all the good stuff disappears.”

Now I felt much wiser and understood why I went hungry my first two days. I wondered why she didn’t use the SAG table. According to Bob, she joined SAG when she turned eighteen and had worked at such ever since. That added up to eleven years of extra work, and that was why he believed she would still be here, even though her father thought she had changed her name and moved away. Bob knew people and knew I was strong on identifying them, so he sent me to where I should find her.

He told me I would be hitting a slow season of filming and could look at most of the full-time LA extras in two weeks if I registered for extra work—the only sure way to get on the film and TV sets where extras worked. That part proved relatively painless. I flew to LA, rented a cheap car, and drove straight to the large casting agency he had recommended. I filled out a few papers and used my own information except for a fictitious LA address. The agency took my picture—unflattering. It made me look like I had accumulated excess poundage. When I suggested they try again and use a different camera angle, they just stared at me and sent me on to a person who finished the registration process. 

Another efficient person gave me phone numbers to call for upcoming extra jobs, and before the end of the day I had a comfortable motel room and a booking for a shoot on the morrow—a TV show. I had brought only one suitcase. Luckily, I found clothes in it that met their specifications.

There followed two terrifying days where I made every mistake imaginable and didn’t find anyone who even remotely matched my pictures—not even when I snooped around on other nearby shoots. I did see repeats of many faces, though. Today ranked as mega terrifying, but I had found the prize, and Bob’s hunch had been a good one. His shrewdness rarely made a mistake.

“I’m SAG,” she volunteered as we pillaged the correct table, “but I’m working nonunion today. Most everyone here is nonunion, so you don’t need to feel uncomfortable.”

I wasn’t uncomfortable—now. I held food in my hands and had filled my pants and jacket pockets with bags of chips and canned drinks. She laughed at my pile of food, a good laugh, low, with a warm, happy sound to it. While she fixed herself a cup of hot chocolate, I studied her more closely. Her face had a childlike innocence that made her seem younger than twenty-nine. My picture showed her with long, straight, red hair, but today she wore short, light-brown curls. They looked like they belonged. Her height matched the five-foot-eight figure her father had supplied, but where he had described her as thin—I would have called her about perfect, with a straighter, more muscular body that most of those around us.

“Come on. There’s room at that table over there.”

I followed dutifully and noted the voucher in her hip pocket. Her name, or the name she used now, should be on that slip of paper. Bob said her actual name was Lorraine Wray—Rainy Wray with the actor’s union. I would have to play helpless, something I excelled at lately.

“Do you have a minute to help me with my paperwork? I’ve done it wrong both days. . . . Maybe I could copy yours.”

She hesitated while a look of uncertainty passed over her face. It lasted only a second.

“Your voucher? Yes, you have to fill it out correctly if you expect pay, but you can’t copy mine, or they’d send me your check.” A glib smile followed. “You can use it as a model, though.” She handed it to me and glanced over at a dark-skinned girl in jeans who had motioned to her. ”I’ll be back in a minute. Holler if you need help.”

There it was, Rainy Wray, along with driver’s license number, address, and everything else. The address was a post office box, so more work awaited me. When she turned her back to me, I copied her info, stuffed it away in my pocket, and filled out my own voucher. Meanwhile, the two women drifted closer, and I caught the end of their conversation.

“You did right. Forget what your father said. He loves you and thinks he’s helping. You’ll find work, and if you need help, call me. You have my new cell phone number.” 

She hugged the girl goodbye and headed my way. I hadn’t meant to eavesdrop, so I turned away, but Rainy read the guilt on my face.

“This business is hard,” she said and sat down beside me. “It’s especially tough for those who still own a conscience or morals. They come out here with dreams of stardom, but soon they can’t pay their rent or afford food, and they can’t find any jobs on the casting lines. While they desperately look for a way to survive, new jobs come on the lines that call for partial nudity or full nudity or simulated sex or poll dancers or . . . or something of that sort. Those jobs usually offer five times as much pay as regular extra jobs or more at times. That’s the point where many of them compromise.”

“Was her father telling her to give it up and come back home?”

“Her father lives out here too and works in this industry. He reprimanded her for being prudish and for not taking a naked job. He asked her how else she expected to earn her rent money or get anywhere.”

“Dear old Dad. . . . Do you run into that same problem, or is it strictly a nonunion matter?”

“It’s much worse with union work. It seems like eighty or ninety percent of female, union jobs have to do with sex or exposing the body. It’s rather discouraging.”

She checked my voucher to see if I filled it out correctly.

“That’s a nice area. Rent must be high. Or do you own?”

Now I had to act. “It’s a friend’s address that I borrowed while I find a new place. You know, not enough work, too many truck repairs, and it still doesn’t run. It’s back in the shop waiting on parts I can’t afford.”

“I’ve been there a few times. It doesn’t matter what your vehicle needs, a fan belt or a new radiator hose, the bill always starts at $600. Car repairs and rent are the two killers around here. That’s why I share a . . . a place with other extras, those three over there.” She pointed in the direction of the three friends I had already identified. “Cost of living runs high in LA. . . . If your truck’s broken, how’d you get here today?”

“A rental. I’ll keep it till I land a check or two. Don’t want to kill my credit card or take a job as a poll dancer.”

She didn’t laugh but instead appeared thoughtful.

“What’s your regular occupation? You’re not trying to break into the movies.”

She said it with complete certainty, and that hurt my feelings. Now I had to jump into the part Bob had prepared for me.

“A carpenter for Frye Construction, but they haven’t had any startups lately, and I couldn’t find anything else. Someone I once thought of as a friend put me onto this extra work. I figured I could stand it until something else came along or Frye started a new job. Now I know I can’t.”

She looked down at my voucher. “Well, Warren Roberts, time to go back to work. The second AD just called for all background.”

“Second AD? Background?”

“You are new at this, aren’t you? The second assistant director wants all the background actors—extras—to come at once.”

“Your name’s Rainy?”

Silence reigned for almost a minute while she studied me with intense, clear eyes.

“Call me Karen, Karen Sharpe—or nothing,” she said, almost in a whisper. “That’s my name on this shoot’s list of extras, but I still have to fill out and sign the voucher in my own name. It’s complicated but . . . a temporary problem. Ordinarily I get the voucher signed with no trouble because they don’t pay much attention on these big shoots.”

“Oh.” I was burning to ask more but knew enough to keep my mouth shut. Either I had just passed her scrutiny test, or this girl’s trusting nature had no limits.

“We’re supposed to fill those bleachers. Let’s sit up at the top since you’re tall. They’d probably put you there anyway.”

When we passed by the craft service’s table, I grabbed another cola and stuffed some more fodder into my bulging pockets. This strange, extra work had suddenly changed its demeanor, and I didn’t mind it anymore. I could sit back with this easy-to-look-at, easy-to-talk-with, unpretentious woman and eat. I wondered how she could act so warm and trusting if she had worked for eleven years around this unholy mob of humanity. My police acquaintances weren’t exactly a mild bunch, and in my line of work I had heard just about everything or at least thought I had, but some of the conversations I overheard the last three days genuinely shocked me.

I also noticed how Rainy drew people to her, even while trying to go incognito. I hoped she wanted her parents to find her. The father paid Bob a hefty sum to locate her, and I would get a good portion of it. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of change I might bring into her life. Was she in some kind of trouble?

Later, during a bathroom break, I called Bob and left a message that I had found the girl and her friends. I gave him her new name and told him I might have to follow her home to get her address. When I returned to the bleachers, she was trying to line up a job for the next day.

“Thank you, anyway.” She soberly put her phone away. “So far I’ve found no big shoots for tomorrow except one that’s already filled.”

“Don’t the small ones pay as well?”

“They do, but I’ve worked around here a long time and most everyone knows me. I’d prefer anonymity, and it’s easier to keep your distance in a crowd like this one. If it weren’t for the others, I’d move away for a while.”

“You mean your three friends?” They had moved closer and now sent furtive glances her way.

“Yes, they depend on me. I’m Mother Hen. We have only two cars between us and one’s mine. Luckily, I managed to get us all on the same shoot today.”

One of her friends motioned for her to come over. I knew they didn’t want me to hear, so I held my phone at my ear to give a preoccupied appearance and listened closely. 

“Rainy, for heaven’s sake don’t make new friends or help anyone—please. Do you know that man?” the girl said in a high voice that carried in spite of its softness.

“Don’t worry about him, Tia. The poor fellow doesn’t know what to do. He’s botched things all day, and they were about to send him home. That’s why I scraped his acquaintance. And he needs the money . . .”

Botched things? I didn’t think I did that horribly. Was that the only reason she came to me—not because of my charm or good looks? Her words shook me up so much I missed part of what they said. At least they talked in normal tones now.

“Rainy, they just put that job on the line, the one we wanted. Tim and I booked it, and Grady’s talking to them now. Do you want him to pass the phone to you when he’s through?”

“Yes, and I want to get Warren on the shoot too.” She turned my way and motioned me to come over. “Warren, you haven’t booked tomorrow yet, have you?”

“No, I . . .”

I didn’t get a chance to say more. She took the phone and gave the casting agent her social security number. Before I realized what was happening, she had booked the shoot and had told the agent they had one more person to go.  I reached for the phone like for a poisonous snake, but managed to stumble through the requirements and get booked.

“Great, Warren. Now all of us can work tomorrow. Any special wardrobe required, Tia?”

“Any shade of green, orange, or brown—casual. And tennis shoes.”

“Warren, meet my friends—Tia, her brother Tim, and Grady here, who just turned twenty four but can book as a teenager. His youthful appearance gets him more work than any of us get. And please don’t call us by name. We have all become someone else for a while.”

“Is that a normal practice in this business?”

I saw right away that her friends strongly disapproved of her openness with a stranger. Three sets of suspicious eyes glared at me. They had fallen into some kind of trouble, all right.

“Not normal and not long-term, we hope.”

“Don’t worry. I’m not a blabbermouth—Karen.”

I wanted them to know I could keep a secret. Tim and Tia still looked at me like they wished I would disappear. They were both about Rainy’s age and both on the slim side, an unhealthy sort of slim. I got the impression that their arms barely held up their hands and that they had never heard of the word posture. In spite of that, Tia was decidedly cute. The Tia in my picture had medium-length blond hair. This Tia had the same length hair, dark brown, and arranged differently. Tim possessed a nice face too, which looked better in the picture where he sported hair. His new bald look didn’t go well with his face, and the earring in his left ear didn’t help.

Grady, the shortest one of the group, no longer seemed bothered by my presence. A couple of female extras who chatted nearby had caught his attention. He was thin but looked wiry. Neither his thick mat of black hair nor his black, bushy eyebrows grew there naturally. Still I might have been fooled if I hadn’t seen his before picture of light brown hair tied back in a ponytail.

Bob said I would receive a bonus if I located the three friends and got information on them.  I guessed the father anticipated loosing Rainy again and wanted contacts so he wouldn’t have to pay a detective agency next time. I felt rather pleased with myself, but the second AD came and ruined it.

“All extras, between row eight and the top of the bleachers, come down. You’ll do crosses in this next scene.”

I had just enough experience with crosses to want to find the bathroom again, but this time they had caught me.

“Everyone gather round. You’ll line up here. When I nudge you, walk around the camera and cut as close as you can to this screen. When the first team comes out, I’ll show you whether to cut in front of them or behind them. Normal walking speed everyone. When you reach the other side, keep walking until you’re out of camera range. Then get back here and be ready to go again. We need constant movement, so don’t dawdle.”

Somehow I had lost Rainy and had been placed third in the line. I didn’t know what first team meant, where I was to walk, or when I would be out of camera range. He shoved the first extra off, and the guy had to lean half over to get around the screen and not bump the camera. I didn’t think I would fit. I watched the second person and knew I wouldn’t fit.

I had reached a sad state of wretchedness when he shoved me off to never-never land. He actually pulled the screen back a few inches to help me get through. I turned to nod my thanks, and the coke can in my pocket grazed a piece of equipment. It made an embarrassingly audible clunk. Blindly, I kept moving. Directly in front of me, two people walked past. I didn’t know where to go. Finally, I dove between them and heard a loud, exasperated cut. I had heard that tone before.

“Who sent King Kong in there? He’s half a foot taller than Vince, and he almost trampled Marti. Lose him quick. Reset the scene.”

I didn’t turn around and go back, but walked until I guessed I had left the reach of the camera. From my new, distant location, I heard them call action, and I dared to turn and look. I then realized that I had cut between the two stars of the film. How could I know that? I had never seen them before, and it wasn’t my fault that I was taller than the hero. I sat down behind a building and drank my three cans of soda and ate all my chips, pretzels, and peanut butter crackers to console myself. That’s where Rainy found me thirty minutes later.

“I’m sorry, Warren. Don’t let it bother you. It happens all the time on set.”

“Yeah, but not always with the same person.”

She laughed, long and hard.

“Really, Warren,” she said, still unable to conquer her mirth, “it was the second AD’s fault. He shouldn’t have sent out someone taller than the male star.”

When she saw my pile of empty cans and bags, she laughed again.

“A soda can! I wondered what banged . . .”

“You deserted me,” I accused before she could remind me again of my latest blunder.

“But I’m here now." She smiled innocently.

CHAPTER 2

She stood beside me like something real in the middle of an artificial world and graciously steered me through the rest of the day. In return, I carried her satchel and garment bag to her car. That worked for someone like me, deficient of verbal dexterity around the opposite sex. I could show my appreciation and finish my job at the same time. Her three friends got into a van parked next door to her car. That gave me two vehicles to follow in case I lost one. I memorized both license plates.

“Warren, I forgot to ask if you have wardrobe for tomorrow. Those pants will work, but you’ll need a brown, green, or orange shirt and tennis shoes.”

“I’ll pick up a shirt and shoes at the store,” I said too quickly and not at all like a poor, jobless person.

“You’ll never raise money for your truck’s repair at that rate. Extra work doesn’t pay like carpenter work. We may have something at our place that you can use if you don’t mind driving to Long Beach. Our little group of extras used to number five, but one . . . had an accident a short while back. He was tall, but thin. You might fit some of his clothes, and you’re welcome to anything you can use. Extra work requires an ample wardrobe. Most males don’t have enough variety to fit the different jobs. If his clothes don’t work, there are thrift stores nearby.”

“A fatal accident?” The cop inside me couldn’t help but ask.

“Totally. He fell off a cliff at a shoot.”

“Understandable. I contemplated jumping off a cliff all three days. . . . Sorry, didn’t mean to sound irreverent.”

“We didn’t know what to do with his stuff. Why don’t you follow me to our place and see if anything fits?”

She had said the magic words that simplified the last portion of my job. I hurried to my rental and parked it beside her car while she arranged her trunk.

“How can you afford a place to stay and a rental car too? Or do you live in it?”

She had asked matter-of-factly, as if she saw no shame in being homeless and sleeping in your auto. I decided to investigate the limits of her sympathy to see where more lies might take me. Bob wanted information on the friends, and she might furnish an opportunity. I checked out of my motel that morning, so my suitcase on the backseat gave credence to my poverty.

“I had a room last night but figured the car would do for tonight. I’m not strapped yet, but I’m not sure I can keep on with this extra work.”

“Considering your size, I think it would be impossible.”

“You mean they don’t want big extras?”

“Big extras? I mean you’d have to bend your legs double to sleep in that car.”

“Oh, the front seat tips back. And car rentals come cheaper over the internet.”

“Warren, why not stay with us for a few nights? Don’t consider it charity. We live in less than a barn, and it sits in less than a barnyard, but there’s an empty, uncomfortable sofa available. The others will resent it, but you can ignore them. They don’t trust anyone right now. I paid for this temporary abode, so they can’t say anything.”

I couldn’t believe this woman’s trusting nature. She hardly knew me yet had taken me under her wing—a possible rapist, murderer, or both. I wondered how she had survived her years out here. Maybe my face looked honest, even if I didn’t look like I belonged in movies. But still—this was a strange woman.

“I’ll stay tonight if you let me pay.”

“No pay. Save your money to get your truck out of hock. And why not take back your rental car? You can ride with me for a few days and save a little more. We could return it right now. Even fifteen or twenty dollars a day can add up.”

My mouth must have hung open for at least a minute. At forty-two dollars a day, I thought I had negotiated a good deal. I amiably submitted to her suggestion and let her follow me to the rental office. Upon completion of my assignment, I could call a taxi to take me to the airport. It felt strange to leave the rental place with no wheels and at the mercy of this determined woman, but I saw a few nice things about it too.

On the ride back, I tried to get her to talk about herself. If she asked me any more questions, I would for sure give myself away. I knew nothing about the LA area, and I had seriously depleted my store of memorized lies.

“I take it you’ve worked around the movie scene for a while.”

“Eleven years now.”

“Can you make a living at it, or do you supplement it with other jobs?

“I’ve never worked another job. I don’t get rich, but I survive. Where else could I work at a new job on a new set in a new location almost every day? Of course, there’s always a chance to land a speaking role, which lends more excitement to it.”

“Have you done any speaking rolls?”

“Small parts in TV shows and SAG experimental films that never went anywhere. Soon I plan to produce my own movies and documentaries. I’ve learned a great deal in the years I’ve worked here.”

“Considering how you feel about the morals of the industry, it surprises me you stayed with it.”

“Sometimes it surprises me too, but I think the moral issues actually attract me. Every day new people arrive, some of them come with wide-open eyes and wide-open morals. They step right into the raunchier side of the industry and have no qualms about it. However, many newcomers are decent and some are totally naïve. Those people generally meet that crossroads of compromise before they half unpack. It’s funny, you know, because I don’t go out and look for people in distress, but somehow they find me. Rarely a day goes by when I don’t get a chance to do something worthwhile.”

“Thank you for making Warren Roberts your worthwhile project of the day.”

“You looked so utterly helpless.”

“One more insult would have blown me away.”

“I doubt that. You look too big and solid to blow away that easily. I guess construction work does that.”

Wow! She said solid, not fat. My ego must have swelled visibly. I felt like saying, Try four hundred pushups a day, lady, and a ten-mile run. Instead, I opted for something that sounded less cop-like.

“Yeah, I guess moving all that plywood and lumber will do it, all right.”

We abruptly arrived at our destination, which stifled further opportunities to sound stupid. We followed a weedy drive around behind a shabby house. The yard, enclosed by a scraggily, overgrown hedge, echoed the look of the entire neighborhood. I carried Rainy’s tote and my suitcase into what looked like a freestanding garage behind the house.

Someone had cheaply divided the building into three rooms and partitioned off a small alcove that pretended to be a bathroom. The bare, oil-spotted concrete floor confirmed that it was a garage on the inside too. The garage door, apparently jimmied shut, had no windows. I saw a couple of windows through the open doorways of the two back rooms, but the main room’s only window was the upper glass of its entry door.  They evidently came in desperation and hadn’t resided here long. There were stacks of unpacked boxes and almost no furniture, but I did find the old sofa Rainy mentioned.

“You see now why you can’t pay? We lived in a nice apartment not long ago. Circumstances put us here. It’s only slightly better than sleeping in a car, but at least you can stand upright to change clothes and there is a bathroom of sorts. . . . I’ve got to run to the store for a second and get some cat food. I adopted this adorable stray. He was almost starved to death when I found him, but I’m bringing him back to life. He’s a voracious eater. If the others come before I get back, don’t let them bother you. I’ll call them right now and warn them you’re here.”

Panic hit me for a second when she drove out the drive. She had escaped, and I wouldn’t find her again. When I saw her tote lying on the table, I relaxed somewhat. I made a quick walk to the street and jotted down the house number. The house looked empty. Maybe its occupants were at work and kept everything closed up tight because of the neighborhood. I called Bob with the address as I headed back.

With nothing else to do, I checked out Rainy’s new, temporary home and wondered what mystery now enveloped their lives. My investigation of the first bedroom showed more unpacked boxes and a pile of sports equipment—probably for the extra work. There were ski suits, wetsuits, rollerblades, surfboards, baseball bats, golf bags, basketballs, skateboards, even a bicycle. Bedroom two also contained boxes and a stack of pictures on top of one. I leafed through them and found a snapshot of extra number five who had gone off the cliff. He smiled at me and held what looked like a small movie camera. An actual camera, matching the one in the picture, sat on a nearby box. That box probably contained what remained of his personal effects.

Before I had finished my study of the camera, Bob called back.

“Warren, her dad wants you to get the names of her friends, the names they use now if they’re different from the names I gave you. He said he’d feel better if he had the additional information in case his daughter ever disappeared again. Since you said they all live at the same address, those names will complete our assignment. The father booked a flight and said he’d be at her place before morning. He’ll stop by my office and drop off the check on route to the airport, so try to get me that information right away if you can. Oh, and he’s paying extra for you to stay there until he arrives.”

I grumbled but agreed.

“Bob, it would be better if you didn’t call me again tonight,” I suggested when Rainy drove in with the van in her wake. “I’ll call you if I get the names, and I’ll let you know when Daddy arrives. Expect me back tomorrow.”

The father wouldn’t get the other’s new names from me, extra pay or not. Let him ask them himself if he felt it mattered. The situation felt uncomfortable. If Rainy’s life had taken a serious blow, her father would have to mend it. I hoped he possessed the capabilities. Maybe they all faced real trouble, or maybe they had fallen victim to their own over-active imaginations from working in the imagination industry too long. Disguises and changed names sounded rather theatrical, but when I looked around their new premises, something didn’t jell. They might be actors, but their fear rang true, and no one could enjoy living in this hole.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

MARY JAMES and JEAN JAMES are both award winning authors. MARY began life as a musical prodigy—could read music before she could read words and wrote original songs at age five. With a life of road shows, TV, radio, and film, this eleven-instrument-wielding musician is known internationally for her music and books. JEAN collected live reptiles, collected live venomous snakes for antivenom production, and worked in many wilderness construction projects. She is also a press agent and songwriter.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
MARY and JEAN: Former police and SWAT officer, Robert James (brother/son), who is now retired from the force because of service related injuries, is the model for the hero of this book. Like Warren Roberts, Robert James is a 6’ 6” powerful, capable, entity who can be bungling at times.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
MARY: I have been writing since I was five years old, both songs and stories. Everyone in my family loves to read and I was inspired to start reading at a very young age. I read Gone with the Wind when I was seven years old. JEAN: Always. I can’t remember when I didn’t write.
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
MARY and JEAN: Not only is the lead character in the book based on Robert James (brother/son), but the book itself resulted from three years in Hollywood where we were both involved heavily in the movie industry. We were able to observe the trials and humor—all the inner workings—of making a film.

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