Chapter Three

"New from overnight, scandal has rocked Mary Alice Fashions founder, Muffy Crosswire. Now tell me, Alan, what exactly happened? Muffy was just showing off her reconciliation with Smash, and now this!"

Buster flipped off the television. He'd flown all night to get to California. The tabloid guy wanted that. He laughed in the other room, his blue tooth headset glowing on the wall. Buster looked out the window as he sipped coffee.

The guy returned, "Man, Baxter, you nailed her! So, we've gotten a letter from her lawyer. She's threatening slander charges if you don't recant. But!" he exclaimed. Buster waited; the guy was laughing too hard to speak. He held up another envelope, "I just got a disk from one of her night guys! I've got footage of her berating you. Isn't this great?"

Buster shrugged. He didn't want to be in this game. It was affecting his screenplay. But he couldn't sit back and let her ruin his reputation. He looked to the guy. His name finally came to Buster—Kevin Crawford. Buster leaned back in his chair and took another sip of coffee.

"Why aren't you impressed with this? Social media is exploding. People are on your side! The latest hashtag is MaryAliceDiva! You started that with your story!" he exclaimed. Buster nodded, "I know. I'm trying to protect my future." Kevin scoffed, "What, that whole screenplay thing? You could be D-List celeb right now, and you're worried about that?" he asked. Buster didn't move. "Fine, you are. Um...what do you have in the works right now? Anything close to being done?"

"Just stuff from college," Buster replied. He took a screenwriting class in college. It was for shows; he wanted to write a movie. He didn't enjoy it but it taught him the craft. He'd finished 2 scripts that year. One was decent enough to peddle, the other wasn't.

"I know some guys we can get in touch with, but Baxter, Buster—you've got to embrace this. Muffy is known for this shit. Half of Hollywood is. You have to fight back unless you want to be tossed in the shredder—and believe me, she'd do that if it weren't a felony," Kevin laughed. His joke wasn't that funny but Kevin was always laughing.

His phone buzzed. He left the room. Buster picked up the disk. A laptop was on nearby. He popped in the disk. The clip was from a bad event. Someone recorded it from a balcony. Buster couldn't remember who was up there. He was too busy getting his ass handed to him by Muffy.

"Diego, it was a simply request: Keep them away from me! No pictures! How come you and the guys couldn't do that? I mean, do I just pay you to check out women and get drunk at parties? No! I pay you to serve me," Muffy hissed.

The camera turned. The yelling continued in the background. Buster didn't need the video. He remembered the chewing out well—a photographer got into her dressing room at an event and they all almost lost their jobs. The surprise? Who was holding the camera: Fern.

"Oh. My. God. I always knew Muffy was crazy, but this is insane! You're famous! Shit happens! Why do you have to make such a big deal out of everything?" Fern hissed. The camera turned back. The slap landed and Fern gasped. Buster's cheek tingled at the memory. It was a vicious slap. He was lucky he didn't get scratched.

"Get out of here! I'll let the event staff finish everything off!" Muffy hissed. The body guards left. Smash appeared, his entourage around him. Fern kept shooting. Buster leaned forward. Smash was egging her on, offering his guys to her. Muffy wasn't sure. Fern found it boring and put away her phone; the clip ended.

"So, what do you think? Think we got a case?" Kevin asked. Buster nodded and stood. "Hey, where are you going?" Buster turned around, "I've got business." Kevin shrugged it off as Buster disappeared.

Fern was a journalist. After a burnout in college, she decided to write other people's stories for a living. She and Buster didn't keep in touch. He knew she wasn't in Elwood City anymore. He didn't know she was in Los Angeles with him. He stepped into the newspaper office. The secretary immediately ushered him into a private elevator.

"Miss Walters has been expecting you," she said. The elevator shot up. Buster felt dizzy as the doors opened. The lady led him to a nice corner office. The view was amazing. Fern sat at her desk, typing something furiously. Buster sat down. The secretary closed the door on her way out.

"I knew you'd show up," Fern grinned. She turned to him, "How in the hell did you get involved with this, Buster?" she asked. She shook her head, "Nevermind, I don't want an answer. I want to help you though. Muffy almost ruined me when I came out here. If I didn't have a forgiving boss, I'd still be at your mother's paper. No offense to her, but that's not where I wanted my career."

"How'd you get the video?" Buster asked. Fern shrugged, "VIP pass to the event. I was doing a story on the headlining designer. He got me the pass. I just happened to hear Muffy screaming so I decided to check it out. She thought that guy was some bigshot photographer," Fern chuckled. "He's still in film school. He didn't even get any good pictures. He was lost, not looking for a story."

Fern sighed, "When she slapped you, I downloaded the video into my computer. I knew I'd need it. Kevin and I are good friends, and I remember seeing you two at an event together. You were keeping him away from Muffy, but I could tell there were other motives. You knew you needed him too."

"I guess I did," Buster nodded. Fern smiled, "Don't be so hard on yourself, Buster. I've heard the rumors that she seduced you. True or not, your reputation depends on you fighting this the right way. Muffy is a royal pain in the ass. Her boyfriend is the same way. They're nightmares. I want them both dealt with.

"But this is your battle, not mine. I'm a background ally. Kevin is editing the piece. No one will ever know it's from me. I want your word too, otherwise you're on your own," Fern grinned. She was devious. Buster liked it. He extended his hand. She shoved a pen into it. A contract manefested like magic, "Sign the contract. I don't do verbal deals anymore. Too much speculation."

A knock sounded. Buster had to leave. He returned to Kevin's office. The video was edited and uploaded to his site. Other gossip blogs and magazines and whoever had bought it. Kevin made money, the story got further. Buster sank onto a couch, semi-satisfied with his day.

Then his phone buzzed: Muffy. Buster let it buzz itself out, then it started again, same number. Kevin noticed and chuckled, "She's heard. You might not want to answer that." Buster nodded, "I don't intend to. I'm done with her, and I have enough people on my side to feel that way. Anyone else sending things in?"

"Nope, but social media is blowing up," Kevin grinned. "I think we have ourselves the headline of the century." Buster doubted that, 'Decade, maybe,' he thought. Kevin was laughing though, so it all must be good.

Talk shows wanted Buster. Kevin wanted to wait. Buster wanted to talk, to push the plot further. His screenplay depended on it. He got dressed up and went to the studio. They redressed him and slathered on makeup. He appeared on the show, told them what they wanted to hear.

Within the hour, Muffy was calling to complain. She tried to have the episode pulled. No one would listen to her. This was too good a headline to let it slip away. They recorded her call and put it on the next day. Social media exploded, Kevin laughed, and Buster felt himself growing comfortable. As long as everyone saw her as a diva, his reputation was safe.

He got a new apartment outside of town. He spent his free time writing when he wasn't doing interviews or ignoring Muffy's calls. He knew how to keep himself busy while the scandals raged on.

What he didn't expect was for her to find him, well, sort of. A pounding knock sounded. It was 11:30, too late for most visitors. But most visitors weren't Muffy's employees. Buster peeked out and saw Diego. He decided to let him in.

"Man, you've stirred up the biggest shit storm I've ever seen," Diego panted, rushing inside. "I can't stay long. I just thought you should know that whatever you're doing is working. Some stores have pulled her label, some shows have refused to have her. It's all a huge mess."

"I just wanted to protect my name," Buster said. Diego nodded and smiled, "Well, you're doing it, Baxter. I wanted to find you on my own. Muffy thought of hiring a private investigator. I swore to do it, but I'm on your side. Now that you're gone, we see what she is. She's a monster. She's got dirt on all of us. Patrick can't leave because of his music, I can't leave because of my body building. If my coach found out about this, he'd have her ripped in half. But then his rep would be on the line too."

"And Raymond?" Buster asked. Diego shrugged. No one knew what he had to lose. His background was unclear to all of them. All they knew was that he was a neat freak, nothing else. Diego sighed, "I just can't believe this, man. You better watch yourself. She has the right to sue you and then you'll have nothing. And if she spins these headlines the right way, which she will try to do, you're still fucked. I think you should've stayed gone, Baxter. It's the only way to stay clean in this city: Leave."

"I'm too deep in this now," Buster sighed. Diego nodded, "My point exactly," he said. He looked outside. He cursed under his breath and asked about a back entrance. Buster didn't know of any and peeked out to see the problem.

One of Smash's cars was outside, a bunch of people in the back.