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A Serial Killer in the Hollywood Hills

Who's knocking off all the aging Hollywood legends who, somehow, manage to keep kicking?

By Reid MoorePublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 7 min read
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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Tony Nouzo sat down at her desk to start another day of freelance blogging about celebrities for the Hollywood Herald. 

She's a slight, mousy-looking girl, late 20-something and wearing frumpy, loose fitting clothes, mostly in darker colors.

All around her is the buzz of activity typical to a newsroom with one foot still in the past of print journalism, the other fitfully kicking its way into the future of digital media. Both seemed to be whizzing by Nouzo's obviously intentional inclination to blend into the background, moving neither backwards. Or forward.

Amanda, the kind of snooty girl who seems to inhabit every busy office, big or small, walked by and dropped an envelope on Nouzo's desk with a flicker of undisguised contempt. Nouzo grabbed it eagerly, tore it open and eyed its contents intently. It was her pay statement. She really needs this job.

As Amanda moved on, she called back to Nouzo and said, a bit too loudly, "Oh yeah. Mr. Breakstone wants to see you in his office. Now."

Nouzo looked up, nervously and asked, "about what?"

Amanda shot back, "How should I know? But if I had to guess, it's probably time for your review."

"Has it been 3 months already?" Nouzo asked out loud, but, mostly to herself.

"Yeah, time flies" said Amanda. Then, more sternly, "You better get going, he's waiting." She moved on, dropping envelopes on desks throughout the humming room, exchanging some banter (and a few snarky laughs) as she went.

Nouzo got up to go, but then remembered to save the blog post she was just getting started on. Something about some Double D-List "TV Star" getting ready to film a reality show about... what? She couldn't remember at the moment. 

As she moved to hit the SAVE button, she accidentally pushed DELETE and the story disappeared from the screen. "Damn!" exclaimed Nouzo. It would have to wait until later. If she didn't get fired first.

She picked up an ornate, old fashioned fountain pen and a small, oddly-bound paper notebook, and started out hurriedly to her editor's office on the furthest side of the newsroom.

Along the way she clung to the edges of the vast, open space, avoiding the eyes of others. She needn't have bothered. Nobody noticed as she passed by, like a ghost. She walked up to a door, slightly ajar, with a sign that read: 

Ed Breakstone Managing Editor and knocked.

From inside, Nouzo heard a man's curt voice saying, "Yes, yes, what is it? Come in, come in."

Nouzo timidly opened the door and walked up to the battered, old desk, waiting silently. Breakstone, his back turned, was working at a PC behind his desk, absorbed intently, reading and editing some copy. After a moment, he turned around.

"Who the hell are you?" he barked, looking startled. "What do you want?"

Frazzled, she sputtered, "I'm Tony Nouzo... one of your bloggers? I'm on the TV beat." She offered up her PRESS badge, hung around her neck on a Hollywood Herald lanyard. Breakstone read the name.

"You don't look like a Tony" he said. "Shouldn't that be spelled with an "I' or something?"

Well, my real name is Antoinette Nelson," said Nouzo, "but I thought..."

"You thought what?"

"I thought it might be better if I used a man's name. You know. As a pseudonym," said Nouzo. "I can change if you want."

"No... no," said Breakstone. "It's not a bad angle I guess." He paused and asked, quizzically, "how come I never saw you around here before?"

"I... I don't know. I've been here about 3 months now."

"What have you got there?" asked Breakstone. He was pointing to her notebook and pen.

"I thought I might have to take some notes or something," said Nouzo. 

"Didn't we give you a MacBook?" Breakstone asked. "What do you wanna mess around with paper for?

"I like paper," Nouzo said, barely above a whisper.

Breakstone looked at her with a note of derision. After a moment he said, brusquely, "All right then, sit down, sit down. Let's get this over with." 

He turned to an open laptop on his desk and began looking over Nouzo's performance record on a spreadsheet. After a moment, he said,  "As you should know, we do a performance review after your first 90 days and I gotta say," he looked up at Nouzo, then back to the small screen, "I'm not very impressed."

"With what?" she asked, worriedly.

"Your numbers. They're pretty low. Why is that?"

"What numbers?"

"Your hits. You know. The traffic to your posts? Don't you know anything about SEO?" Breakstone asked, clearly irritated.

"But you published all of them," Nouzo said. Breakstone looked over at her sharply. "I mean, most of them anyway."

"Look," said Breakstone, with a clear note of irritation in his voice, "despite what you may think, we're actually doing something around here. But you got no punch. Do you even care about what you're writing?"

"I'll try harder?" said Nouzo, with what she hoped sounded like confidence.

"That may not be enough," said Breakstone, dryly. "But, seeing as how you seemed to have escaped my notice so far, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt."

He reached to close the laptop and said, "I'll give you a month to get those numbers up. Now get back to work." He turned back to the PC behind his desk, a gesture clearly meant to indicate the performance review was over.

Instead of getting up and walking out, however, Nouzo remained seated. Breakstone, realizing she wasn't leaving, turned around and said, "Well?"

"I was just thinking..." she said.

"About what?"

Nouzo was suddenly seized by the thought of slashing Breakstone's throat with the razor-sharp tip of her fountain pen. For a moment, she fantasized about its cutting through his carotid artery and the oddly comforting thought of Breakstone's wildly spurting blood, splashing his desk and brightly decorating the walls of his office. 

Instead, she asked, "Aren't there any positives? Is it all about numbers and... Search Engine Optimization?"

Breakstone eyed her, a bit more warily this time, opened up the laptop again and, after a moment, said, "Well, you do seem to have a flair for breaking news. But your background stuff needs work. Do you even watch TV? I mean, without getting paid for it?"

"There's one in every room..." she said, her small voice trailing off to a whisper as she stared down at her hands.

Breakstone looked long and hard at Nouzo. Finally, turning back to the screen, he said "Let's see... Oh. You do have relatively good numbers on your celebrity obituary columns." 

Looking her over, he said, sarcastically, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised." Then, perhaps to lighten the mood, Breakstone smiled and quipped, "Maybe Betty White will do you a favor and kick the bucket this month." 

Nouzo, looked up, startled and said, "She's not dead yet?"

The smile drained away from Breakstone's lips and he said, with finality, "You got 30 days," and turned back around to his PC monitor.

Nouzo got up from the chair, left the office and slipped quietly back to her own desk, hugging the shadows the whole way. 

She pulled Google up on her PC and typed "how to find Betty White" into the search box. The results page came up instantly and Nouzo clicked on the first link. It opened to a web page titled: 

Road Map To The Hollywood Stars

It was one of those dodgy websites claiming to give out the real home addresses of Hollywood stars but actually just promoting a cheesy, overpriced bus tour through the dingy streets of Hollywood.

Suddenly, she had a wild, terrifying (but somehow, thrilling?) idea.

"So, Breakstone says I'm good at obits, huh? I'll bet a story about Betty White's 'tragic' death would bring in some heavy traffic. But can I stretch it 30 days?" she thought. "What about beyond that?"

She switched over to the Herald's database and started looking up contact info on other celebs who most people thought must have died years ago. If they ever even thought of them at all any more.

"Hmm" she mused to herself as she perused the data. "Dick Van Dyke. Alan Alda. That Corporal Agarn guy. Hell! How about Marion Ross?" The death of "America's Mom" would be HUGE. Especially if she died in an "accident."

"Yeah," Nouzo thought, chillingly. "30 days should be plenty of time..."

Mystery
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About the Creator

Reid Moore

I am a Freelance Writer living in Riverside California who writes on a wide variety of topics including News, Politics, Popular Culture, Science, Music, Fiction, Poetry and Art.

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