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About the Author: Carolyn Kourofsky's short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Murderous Intent, and her Dance Mystery Theatre piece Death by Paso Doble premiered at the Rochester Ballroom Club. She is a member of the 13th Precinct Writers, an upstate New York writers group.

“This ab-so-lute-ly will not work.” The famous voice of Magdalene Raven rose in disgust. “No one could possibly take her for me.”

Yvonne “Von” Delaroche hesitated, considering how to point out tactfully a fact no actress wants to hear: the general public recognizes her based on a few superficial physical characteristics.

“You’re not seeing her in her best light,” Von offered.

The “her” in question circled the huge dressing room Magdalene also used as an office in her Malibu mansion, admiring the souvenirs and accessories. She bent to examine something on the enormous vanity table, presenting Pleather-encased buttocks to the two women studying her.

“That’s the problem, Von,” Magdalene said dryly. “I’m afraid I am.”

“Oh, it’s gorgeous!” Tammy Kane straightened, and held up a glittering necklace of diamonds setting off an emerald pendant. “It’s the one you wore when you accepted that, isn’t it?”

She gestured toward the softly lit cabinet on the far wall. It housed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that had, almost overnight, catapulted Magdalene Raven from “Maggie who?” to the paparazzi’s number one target. Von noticed Magdalene’s expression soften in the reflected glow of the award, and saw her chance.

“Remember, she’ll be in the limo and then at a secluded table at the restaurant. No one will see her up close except her escort, and you said you trust Brad. And that necklace will be the clincher. Who else would be wearing it but Magdalene Raven?”

Magdalene’s face hardened again as she watched Tammy fasten the necklace around her throat and examine herself with pleasure in the mirror above the vanity.

“We’re fully bonded,” Von reminded Magdalene. “And Tammy will only leave the limo to go into the restaurant, which has its own security guard.”

But she knew it wasn’t the necklace’s security that bothered Magdalene. It was the sight of it on someone else.

“This isn’t one of your mystery theatre productions, Von. This is real life.”

“Actually, it’s Hollywood. Where people want to be fooled. It’s more glamorous.”

Von noticed the edge in her own voice, and shut up. She was slightly piqued by the remark about mystery theatre. Magdalene knew perfectly well Von’s productions were a lot more than that, having kept food on her table by acting in several of the interactive mysteries of Custom Murder, Inc. back when she was still Maggie Lynn Rafferty, aspiring actress. After she became Magdalene Raven, and began her rapid assent toward stardom, she had quickly become too recognizable for Von’s particular brand of street theatre.

Magdalene’s turning point had been “Naked Sun,” an artistically smutty film about a young woman who goes to Italy to find herself through a series of steamy love affairs. As high concept it was a flop, but as soft porn it became a staple. In that capacity it had been viewed by a rising young director, who had cast Magdalene in his upcoming thriller. The film was the sleeper of the season, and she was suddenly an official “hottie.”

“Look, Maggie, you asked for my help,” Von continued. “If you want to shake that pack of jackals outside and spend a romantic weekend with the man who gave you that necklace, you’ll take it.”

Before the post-Oscar cameras Magdalene had been coy about the necklace, describing it as “a gift from the man of my dreams.” Ever since, reporters and photographers had dogged her every time she stepped outside her own home. Von had run the gauntlet to drive up to the house, with Tammy hidden under a blanket.

The media frenzy was a particular problem since, as Magdalene had admitted to Von when she sought her help, the man was not just a very private billionaire, but a very conservative one who abhorred Hollywood glitz and decadence. Magdalene would never have met him at all had they not been seated next to one another at a charity event. Once within Magdalene’s sphere, William Truman Hansgate hadn’t stood a chance. Along with beauty and charm, she could exude a natural wholesomeness, implying that this was her true state which unfortunately had to be masked for her on-screen roles.

This story appears in our DEC 2015 Issue
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