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NYPD 6th Precinct
October 12, 4:55 p.m.
One Day before the V-Event
"Was it your blood?"
The prisoner shook his head.
"Please speak up," asked the interviewer behind the glass. "Remember, we're taping this."[??]
"No it —?"
"No, it wasn't my fucking blood. Christ, if I'd bled that much do you think I could run all that way? I'd have been passed out. I'd have been "
The prisoner shook his head. Dead was not a word he wanted to use.
The interviewer said, "Do you remember running through the streets?"
"No." A pause. "I don't know. A little, maybe. I kind of remember it. Lot of shit's all tangled up in my head."
"Do you know why you were naked?"
"I'm not sure."
"Do you remember where you left your clothes?"
"The cops asked me the same questions. I told them all this "
"I'm not a cop," said the interviewer.
"You're working for them."
"Whatever, man. I still told the cops. They have all of this."
"I would still like you to tell me."
"Why? They just want to lock me up and throw away the frigging key."
"They probably do."
The prisoner turned his head sharply and stared through the one-way glass. "What?"
"The police probably do want to lock you up," agreed the interviewer. "But as I said, I'm not the police."
"Then why are you asking me the same questions, man? What do you want?"
"I want to understand."
The prisoner laughed. It was short, bitter and ugly. "Me? What's to understand? I don't understand what happened. I don't remember what happened."
"I don't think that's true," said the interviewer. "I think you do remember. And I think you want to tell someone about it. You want to understand it, just as I want to understand it."
"No I don't."
"Yes," said the interviewer, "you do."
The prisoner looked at the mirrored surface of the reinforced window that separated him from the voice. "Then why don't you come in here and talk to me face-to-face."
"No," said the interviewer, "I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Why do you think?"
The prisoner made a sound. Low and guttural. Possibly a grunt of anger or disgust, possibly a laugh. Possibly a sob.
"Why do you think I won't come in there?" prompted the interviewer.
"Because you're afraid of me."
"Yes," said the interviewer. "That's right."
After a pause, the prisoner said, "You should be."
"I know."CHAPTER 2
Starbucks -72 Grove St, West Village, NY
September 29, 12:25 p.m.
Fourteen Days before the V-Event
It was junk.
Pure goddamn junk.
Michael Fayne wanted to throw the script across the room. He wanted to pour lighter fluid on it and watch it burn.
Film that, he thought bitterly. That would at least be entertainment.
He glared at the script on the table. Couldn't really burn the frigging thing. Wouldn't be the best and most profitable use of the last five minutes of his break. The customers — those sheep — would freak. Even the regulars who were zombieing their way through the same kind of no-future, no-exit jobs as him. A flaming movie script sailing over the counter would push them dangerously close to actual reaction and interaction with the world, and you can't have that.
Fayne studied the line of caffeine addicts lined up at the counter, eyeing them with contempt. A little excitement would do them all good. Even a doctor would tell them that, but they would hate him for it.
And he needed the frigging tips.
Besides, half of them probably had scripts like this one in their briefcases or backpacks. They were too busy ordering absurdly expensive and complicated coffee drinks because it made them feel better about reading the same kind of scripts for third-rate basic cable or direct-to-Netflix pieces of crap. No way they'd tear open a packet of compassion for anyone else. They'd think he was over-reacting and over-acting because his POS script was anywhere near as bad as their POS scripts.
He felt eyes on him and cut a sideways look to see two girls at the next table whispering to one another and stealing glances at him. They were cute. Early twenty-something, which was probably too young for him according to his driver's license but not according to his face. Fayne knew that he could still pass for twenty-six or -eight.
The girls were cute. The blonde had a few pounds on her, but most of it was grouped nicely. The brunette was borderline Goth. Thin, lots of eye makeup, too much weird jewelry, but Fayne knew the type. Emotionally damaged chicks like that were savages in the sack. Maybe a little clingy next day, but they could go at it all night.
He weighed his choices. He could give them the smile that he'd gotten by pretty much buying his dentist a new yacht. But that was overkill, and Fayne didn't think he needed to work that hard with either of these gals. Or he could give the half-smile that he wore on his head shot. Bit of Clint Eastwood from back when he used to be on the other side of the camera. Bit of Colin Farrell. A lot of Nathan Fillian. Chicks wanted to undress when they saw him do that.
So he did that one.
They both turned red and nearly collided heads as they instantly bent close to whisper.
Fayne turned away, but only enough to look like he wasn't looking.
The girls kept trying to catch a better look at the title of the script, which told him they were at least smart enough to know that it was a script.
Fayne set his coffee cup down on the top page of the script, obscuring the title.
Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III.
Yeah, that would get him laid.
Not only was it a piece of crap, it was the third piece of crap in a series. They actually made two of these things already. The first one had enough of a pocket-change budget to get the guy who played the guy on that episode of Stargate. What was his frigging name? He was the one who went onto do that reality show about guys who used to play guys in shows like Stargate.
Fayne's phone did not so much as ring for that one. His agent didn't send an email for Slothtopus one. Or two. Which didn't even have that guy in it. No, for that one they used the guy who was on one episode of the soap that got canceled. He played a bartender and had something like two lines. Something like, "Last call, ladies." The kind of line Shakespeare got famous for writing. Stuff that gave David Mamet wood. That was the guy they got for the second flick. Fayne's phone didn't ring then, either.
No, his phone rang when they were getting ready to shoot number three. Three, which in any video series was a short step down from midget porn and a short step up from infomercials.
Welcome to Hollywood.
Welcome to bright lights, big cities, guest shots on Jon Stewart and all the first class ass you can handle.
Yeah, welcome to an economy plane ticket back to Newark and a day job spilling coffee in Manhattan. Welcome to crap roles that, sure, paid a bill, but at the same time dug his career a little deeper into a landfill.
The two girls were giggling. He had to admit that they were hot. That was about the only perk there was to working a job like this. Hot chicks drank a lot of coffee. They drank fraps and lattes, and cappuccinos and mocha-god-damn-chinos, and anything else that sounded like it was something elegant people actually drank in Europe. Fayne had been to Europe. In Europe people drank fucking coffee, but you couldn't tell people that.
He eyed the girls who were still trying to read something off the top page of the script. Fayne casually tossed his cell phone atop the script to hide the name of the screenwriter. That clown was a hack anyway. Did mostly movie tie-in novels and stuff like Slothtopus, probably to feed a crack habit or pay alimony. Fayne couldn't believe that the writer did this kind of stuff out of artistic vision.
Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III.
Three, for God's sake.
Four years ago he would have been the guy they called for the first one.
Seven years ago he would have been in a better movie because eight years ago he was in a better movie. Since then he should have been in a string of better movies. But his agent had sent him the wrong script, and to make it worse, Fayne had liked the script.
Frightbook sounded great. He got the script the same day The Social Network hit theaters. Shooting started the week before the Oscars. It was a can't-fail retro slasher flick that tapped the vein of social media. Even had some themes borrowed from the Craigslist Killer case. The tagline was "Facebook with Bite."
That was all over Twitter.
Good cast, too. Not great. No A or B listers, but serious character actors. The broad who used to be on CSI. The old fart from that John Carpenter flick. The kid who used to be a Mouseketeer before she grew tits and stopped bringing her common sense with her to parties. Classic — classic — ass. Eye-hurtingly perfect.
The Mouseketeer had too many key lines in the script; one too many pivotal scenes which absolutely depended on her to at least minimally — what was the word? Oh, yeah act.
Which she could not frigging do.
She was so bad she couldn't even act like a bad actress.
Which no one expected. She was Disney trained, and say what you like about the Mouse House, they were the Gestapo when it came to training their talent. She had two Daytime Emmys for the love of Zeus. The girl should have been able to handle the part in her sleep. It wasn't Gertrude from Hamlet. All she had to do was act the part of a scared, pretty ingénue who showed her knockers and ran screaming from the guy with the knife.
The movie made about eight bucks in general release. Didn't even cruise high enough above the radar to qualify for a Razzie.
Thirty million dollar budget straight down the pooper. Made back about a mil, mostly from inbred mouth-breathers who rented the video because the cover art showed the Disney chick in a push-up bra. A last desperate attempt by the marketing department.
Fayne sipped his coffee and punched his phone to see the time. Three minutes and then he had to hoist his fake smile in place and fight the urge to serve spitters when no one was looking.
The blond with the rack was trying to get the Goth chick to say something to him. Fayne gave them half a second of the half-a-smile. They both flushed bright crimson. Oh yeah, they might as well have bull's eye painted on them. Fayne would have bet his next paycheck that they both had tramp stamps on their lower backs. They were the type. Some Celtic knots or dolphin shit. Something like that.
He took a sip of coffee but hastily replaced the cup over the title. Slothtopus did not send a bang-me-blind vibe. Not even in Starbucks.
He thought about his second film. The one that was supposed to rescue his career from where it floated in the toilet next to anyone else who'd worked on Frightbook. That one was a science fiction thing by the guy who made one of the Aliens pictures. Pretty good director. Nice title, Deep Ice. Okay script, but it was FX driven, so no one was expecting Academy nods for acting. Fayne was second lead, the lantern-jawed good guy who turns out to be a villain in the third act and gets his ass handed to him by the plucky heroine. When Fayne agreed to it the producers were hinting at lead actresses like Mila Kunis or Emma Stone. When the cameras rolled they had the chick who did three guest spots on Friends, which was half a million years ago.
Deep Ice went direct to video. Didn't even nod at the multiplexes.
The thing that really torqued Fayne's ass was that he spent three months in some piss-hole place called Point Barrow, Alaska, the northernmost point of all the territory of the United States. Only twelve hundred miles from the actual North Pole. The producers wanted to use real footage of some archaeological site, something to do with the Thule people, ancestors of the Inuits, who pretty much no one cared about except on the Discovery Channel. Fayne froze his nads off for that flick. And, despite the expectations of the producers, he turned in a good performance. Layered and conflicted, a villain who was at odds with his own villainy. A performance that deserved to be seen.
He got sick as a dog, too; and even with a raging fever he managed to nail his lines, get his blocking right on every shot, and give them a death scene that would have had the audiences weeping in the aisles. But it never saw the inside of a movie house.
The virus he got up there — now that made a big debut. I1V1. The "ice virus." Some crap that was trapped in arctic ice a bazillion years ago and released by global warming, blah, blah, blah. Big deal. It nearly frigging killed him. By the time he got back to L.A. he had a fever of 104.7 and a stunning case of the shivering shits. Had to go to the hospital even though his medical coverage was long gone. He figured he'd still be paying that off when his grandkids were in college. And getting the studio to cover the flu when he couldn't prove he got it on their set was a complete waste of time, even with I1V1 making all the papers and scaring people worse than Swine Flu.
The flu didn't kill him, though, so put that in the win column. Actually, it didn't kill anyone, though there was all of the cliché panic, driven by hysterical news reports that were long on hype and short on facts. When Fayne got out of the hospital he went home and got sick again and again for the next month while his bills mounted and his bank account shrank smaller than his nutsack had up in Alaska.
That was almost two years ago now. The ice flu was as persistent as one of those CSRs from a credit card company. It kept coming back and never actually went away, and each time he went a little deeper into the hole because he lost work days. Twice it happened during film shoots. The producers were tolerant the first time; the second time he got replaced. Since then, all he got was voice-over crap for commercials and some background walk-by stuff on TV shows that he never watched.
If he took this new piece of crapola, then it meant two things. A paycheck that might at least get his nose above water, which was good, and it meant going back to the cold, which sucked. Giant Ice Centipede vs. Slothtopus III was scheduled to shoot in northern Canada. Not as far north as Deep Ice, but far enough. It was already October and those nutjobs wanted to begin shooting in early January. Ice flu be damned. Elk wouldn't go to northern Canada in the middle of winter, what the hell were they thinking? Did they actual believe that the boneheads who were going to watch the flick on SyFy were sober enough to care whether it was real snow or fake snow swirling around the set? After all, it was all about monsters, and they were CGI. So, what the hell did it —
Fayne looked up and saw the assistant shift manager waving at him. His break was up and although he longed to do it, Fayne had not held his lighter to the corners of the script. He hadn't thrown it out, either.
He cut another look at the girls. They were still staring at him.
"What the hell," he said and took a business card out of his wallet. It had his head shot—with the half smile — his email address, Facebook and Twitter links, and cell phone number. He turned it over, took a ballpoint pen from his pocket and made sure that they were looking at him when he wrote 'call me' on the back.
He stood up, pretending to ignore the manager, looking as cool as it was possible to look in a polyester three-button shirt and a green apron. He folded the script in half, tucked it under his arm, walked past the girls, bent and placed the card on the table exactly between them, giving them a last look at the half smile, and sauntered to the counter.
As it turned out, it was the blonde who texted him.
That was fine with him. When it came all the way down to the bottom line, he didn't give a shit who he nailed, as long as he nailed someone.
Excerpted from V Wars by Jonathan Maberry. Copyright © 2012 Idea and Design Works, LLC. Excerpted by permission of IDW.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 10, 2012
I did not want it to end. Hope there is a sequel. Jonathan Maberry & John Everson are two of my favorite authors and now after reading this, I have discovered a few more. Good work to all the writers who put this book together.
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