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The Looker

By

D. G. Richards

Copyright © D. G. Richards 2001

   

That the woman was beautiful was never in doubt. As soon as she walked into the bar her presence could be felt like a physical force. And it wasnít just the men who noticed. All the women in the bar watched her walk by, scrutinising every detail and item of clothing.

She was dressed simply. She wore a sleeveless and low-necked pink tee shirt, blue jeans and trainers. But her shape and graceful movements made them look like a designer outfit. She was obviously in her twenties. Tall, almost lithe, but she had an hourglass figure that was grateful for her height. Her blonde hair was thick and slightly curly. It was long, too, reaching down to her waist. Blue-eyed, her face and features were so perfect, so sensual, that it almost made you cry to look upon her. Slightly high cheekbones, almond shaped eyes, and a complexion that was unblemished and of a perfect hew. The slight tan of her skin reflected a healthy image. Not too dark, not too light. Everything about her was perfect. Too perfect.

As she walked across the room, the hem of her tee shirt moved in opposing rhythm to her jeans, giving tantalising glimpses of her stomach and back.

All the men in the bar wanted to date her.

All the women in the bar wanted her to drop dead.

Henry Gavin watched her walk towards him. He was in his forties, a touch of grey already showing in his curly brown hair. With his battered tweed jacket he looked slightly out of place in the rich dťcor of the hotel bar surrounded by all these well clad sophisticates. He didnít care. He was delighted with the effect the woman had on the people in the bar, mainly because it was so obvious that she was coming to see him.

Until today, he would have doubted that anyone could get her to give an interview, least of all him, but it was at her request that he was here. She had contacted his magazine that very morning and asked that he should meet her here in the bar of the Dorchester. When he got the message he had been intrigued. Very intrigued. Why would the model-come-actress ask for an exclusive interview with the very journalist who had published the most scathing attack on her? Some of her friends had said that she had cried when she had read the article about her last film. Gavin doubted the story. He didn't usually work as a film critic, but it had been too good an oppotunity to miss. Yes, maybe he had been hard on her, but she had deserved it. She wasn't a real actress, she was just a body. He hadn't even thought about the effect it might have on her. Maybe she had cried, or maybe it was just an attempt at sympathy. In either case, it was true that her appearances and photo-shoots had declined drastically following the publication of his article. Those same friends and sources had muted at her retirement. If that were also true, then there could be only one reason for this request: She was going to set the record straight on her past, her behaviour, everything. She was going to wipe the slate clean before she faded away. And if she wanted it to be believed, then who better to tell it to than her worst critic?

Now as she walked towards him, Gavin couldnít help feeling mildly proud, and equally mildly excited. The reason was simple: He was conscious of everyoneís eyes in the room being focussed on them. He stood up as she reached his table and held out his hand.

"Chantal! Glad you could make it! Please, sit down."

She didnít take his hand. She sat down at the table without a word or a glance at him. Gavin resumed his seat, slightly deflated.

"A drink?" he suggested.

The waiter had hurried over before Gavin had finished speaking. He stood at her shoulder, looking down at her. He was obviously staring at her cleavage. She hardly glanced up at him as she spoke.

"Coffee. Black."

Two words.

Her voice was as attractive as she was beautiful, chocolaty smooth, with a hint of huskiness. But her cold demeanour dispelled the beautiful image. And her eyes never stopped moving. She looked down at the floor, or out the window, but never straight at him. She avoided eye contact at every turn, which wasnít easy in the bar. Everyone watched them, but pretended not to. Everyone wanted to approach their table, but didnít want to make the first move in case they lost face. Gavin understood why. Despite her image being displayed at every opportunity, her requests for personal privacy and solitude were well documented, and she didnít tolerate unsolicited approaches. She could even react violently. It all just made her more popular with the media. In less sophisticated surroundings she would have been mobbed, but here at the Dorchester, the people hung back and spoke in whispers.

Now that she was so close to him, Gavin was even more acutely aware of her. Everything was magnified; he could almost taste her presence in the air. It was a distraction.

Gavin noticed that the waiter was still loitering. He had to prompt him to leave.

"Thatíll be all."

The waiter finally left and they were alone again, surrounded by all those eyes. Gavin got to the point.

"Why do I get the feeling that you donít really want to be here?"

Her eyes darted passed him. "Did I have a choice?"

"If I remember rightly, no-one forced you to do two calendars and all those menís magazine articles. Or the films and televison shows."

She stared down at the table. "Photographs I pose for do not worry me. Photos taken in my own home by telephoto lens are an intrusion I can do with out."

She spoke calmly and intelligently. It belied the dumb blonde image she had already been tagged with. But Gavin was unsympathetic.

"Youíll pardon me if I say that I have heard that argument before. If you seek publicity, you canít then moan at the amount of your success."

She nodded as she continued to look at the table. "Yes, it was a mistake. I know that now."

"Is that why youíve decided to retire?"

She raised her head at last, and for the first time she looked right at him. Her eyes were intense, deep and immensely sad. "Yes."

A simple answer, and one that was accompanied by such a sincere expression, that Gavin remained silent.

The waiter returned with the coffee. He loitered briefly. They waited in silence until he left.

Chantal sipped her coffee. She didnít wait for it to cool. She held the cup in both hands like a child, sipping it as if she had come in from a cold winterís night.

Gavin remained silent as he watched her. It was strange. He had met models before, and society women who hurled themselves at celebrity status like an exocet missile, but he had never met anyone like Chantal. All the rest had two faces. The one for the camera and the media, the other for the real person within. The real face was sometimes unpleasant, but often less glamorous. Chantal only had one face. It was apparent as soon as you met her. What faced Gavin was what faced the camera. The expression wasnít put on for the instant that the camera shutter snapped. It was her face; it was her thoughts and fears that the camera captured. That sensual and vulnerable look had grabbed attention and sold a million.

"Why did you do it?"

It wasnít the question Gavin had planned to ask. It just popped into his head. The answer she gave was equally unprepared.

She put down her cup and stared at him, her eyes fixing his like bayonets through his head. They were so sincere, those eyes. So pleading.

"In life there are always choices to be made. Each one leads to another way. I am not exceptional in skills and talent, but I have a body that is a perfect union of Jessica Rabbit and Barbie. I made money quickly and easily. I could have made more. Much more. I chose not to. None of the photo spreads, calendars or films you speak of show me naked, and my breasts are my own to see."

"I donít remember you dressed in a nunís habit, either," Gavin countered.

"It was suggested. As were various other fantasies that would involve a sequence of photos ending with me unveiled in an acrobatic position. Trash. I refused to compromise, but the demands increased.

"At first the work was not difficult and I thought I could control it. I was naÔve. I did the equivalent of standing up in the middle of a pack of lions shouting 'eat me'. I thought I might receive a few bites from the lions, but if it got worse then I could stop. I was unprepared for the feeding frenzy, and now there is little of my body left to call my own. If I stay any longer I will be completely destroyed. But my decision to quit has only spurred on the hunger. I have more offers now than I did before. And the intrusions have grown."

Gavin smiled. "Is that why you made this appointment? To tell everyone that you want to be alone?"

"I had to speak to someone. It might as well be you."

"And you actually think that my printing a story saying that youíve had enough and that you refuse to pose or work anymore will actually stop everything?"

His sarcastic tone was far too clear, and she seized on it.

"You think I deserve this attention. I know. I can sense it in you. 'You covert the flame, so how can you cry when your wings are burned?' Yes, I cry when they clamour for information, I cry when they say things that are untrue. I cried at what you wrote about me, but it isn't just the fault of the newspapers. Everyone who walked passed me in the street is suddenly my deepest friend with secrets to tell. All those who went to the same school or lived in the same town were boyfriends who discarded me. And every actor I shared a film with has bedded me. All of it is rubbish."

She had spoken with emotion for the first time, and Gavin believed every word of it. But he was a journalist and this story was his for the taking. He leaned forward on the table, and he spoke eagerly.

"Yes, it is rubbish! Cheap, nasty, and without an ounce of truth! And thatís the point! Nobody knows anything about you."

"The lack of information did not hinder you."

"Your performance in that last film was pathetic, and you know it! You were fair game and you got what you deserved."

She didn't reply, so Gavin pressed on, anxious that this chance didn't slip away.

"Look, you came from nowhere, you suddenly have your face and body on every magazine and newspaper, and fashion houses clamour to get you to wear their goods! You get into films that other far better actresses would kill for, make a mess of it, and now you want to jump back into obscurity? Well, it wonít happen! People want to know who you are, where you came from, who you went out with! And yes, who you slept with! And we want pictures. Lots of pictures!"

She sighed heavily. "Yes, always they want more photos. They even dig up the old ones many photographers discarded as poor. Once I was photographed by the best photographers in exotic locations, now anyone who can snap me in Tescoís bending over to pick up a tin of beans can ask a fortune. You are all stupid."

Gavin was relentless. "If you want this story published, if you want it written sensitively and with an unbiased slant, then your request that no photographers be involved wasnít the right way to go about it. My editor wants photos. The storyís a non-starter without them."

She nodded in resignation. "So be it." She stood up. "Come with me to my room. We can talk more privately. Photos can be done later."

Gavin looked up at her in surprise. She was already walking away. He got up hastily and followed her, deeply conscious of the envious eyes of the men in the bar. They all knew where he was going. And they would all have vivid fantasies of what they might do together when they were alone. It was silly. Gavin knew it was ridiculous. But even he saw the same fantasies drifting through his mind.

He couldnít be that lucky.

-o-

On the way to the elevator they passed through the foyer. Here there were tourists who were just happy to see the inside of the hotel on their visit to London. They were less reserved than those in the bar when they recognised Chantal, and she had to withstand a barrage of demands for autographs and requests by people who wanted a photograph standing next to her. She signed everything, looked at each lens as the shutter snapped, and worked her way closer and closer to the elevator in between each avid and attentive fan. It started as a few polite requests, and then became a torrent of demands. They touched her and mauled her, one even knocking Gavin aside in the rush to be close to her.

The doorman and several bellboys finally intervened, forming a cordon so that Chantal and Gavin could reach the elevator. There was a chorus of ah's when the doors closed, but everyone went home happy with an excited tale already on their lips.

"Guess who we saw!"

When they were safely inside the elevator, Chantal fell back against the far wall, staring at the floor. Gavin watched her.

"Youíre not Marilyn Monroe, you know," he remarked.

She looked up at him. "No. I made only two films. My role in each was slight, but I am happy with my contribution. My last performance was poor as you said, I will not deny it. But my decision to do that film was a mistake, and if I had been anyone else it would have passed unnoticed." She sighed again. "She was a much better actress than me, and my fame is only slight compared to hers. I am glad of this. There are still many places where I am unknown, and one of those places will soon become my home."

It was an intriguing thought.

Gavin expected her suite to be the penthouse. It wasnít. But it was almost as high and no less grand. He looked around at the splendour of the furnishings and fittings, and at the size of the suite. It probably cost more for one night than he earned in a month. Make that two months.

Chantal headed towards the open door of the bedroom. Gavin said what came straight into his head.

"Is this where you slip into something more comfortable?"

She paused in the doorway and looked round. "Let me dispel one myth right now. I have never had sexual intercourse. Ever. I suggest you make yourself comfortable. I have a long story to tell."

She disappeared into the bedroom. Gavin raised his eyebrows and then pounced on one of the rich sofas. He pulled out his Dictaphone and notepad and pen. He laid everything out on the low table in front of him and then took off his jacket. He threw it on the sofa and in a few seconds he was comfortable and already scribbling in his notepad.

If she continued in the same open and frank manner, this was going to be some interview. All he needed were pictures.

Chantal came out of the bedroom. She was carrying a battered looking folder. Gavin couldnít help feeling slightly depressed that she hadnít changed. To his surprise, instead of sitting on the sofa opposite to him, she came and sat next to him, moving his discarded jacket out of the way as she did so.

Gavin looked at her as she lay the folder on the table. She was now closer than ever, and the feeling he had in the bar was a hundred times greater. He could hear every movement of her body, taste and smell the perfume of her hair. Her bright blue eyes shone as she looked down at the table and he could see every perfect eyelash. She was leaning forward, and Gavinís eyes moved from her face to her neck, and then to her back. Her pink tee shirt had rode up, and her back and tanned skin was most attractive. Her knickers were showing just above her jeans, and Gavin could even see the upside down Calvin Klein name on the white elastic.

She brushed back a loose curl of her blonde hair and moved further forward on the sofa. Her thigh brushed against his and the touch caused Gavin to look down, and he noticed that she had taken off her trainers. Her feet were bare on the thick carpet. She had exquisite toes.

She spoke, but he wasnít listening.

"There is some information here that may be of some interest."

She looked up at him when he didnít answer and she saw him looking back at her with that look. She closed the folder and sat back on the sofa, crossing her legs.

"This interview will not progress far unless you pay attention."

"Iím sorry," he said in sudden embarrassment as he snapped out of his idyll. He rubbed the back of his neck. "Iím not usually like this. It was just that I didnít expect you to sit so close to me."

"Your reaction is not unusual," she told him. "I have a particular power. You felt it in the bar downstairs. Everyone feels it, men and women alike. It has a profound affect. The urge to come closer, to be near me, to touch me. It isnít there by accident."

Gavin tried to laugh it off. "And I thought it was just your perfume."

"I am not wearing any. But I can tell from your attitude that you are unconvinced by my words. That will change in time. Open the folder."

Gavin did as she asked in almost mechanical fashion. He was still embarrassed by his almost boyish and gauche behaviour. It had been many years since he had been entranced that easily by a beautiful woman, but there was something about this particular woman that seemed to melt away the years of experience and maturity. Her presence so close to him on the sofa seemed to confuse his very senses. No matter how hard he concentrated, he was always conscious of her sitting right next to him. With her legs crossed, her foot remained in his field of vision, and it didnít help. It was a beautiful foot.

With effort, he turned his attention to the battered folder, trying his best to at least appear professional. There was a bundle of papers inside, some of which were yellow with age. There were also some photographs that even he hadnít seen before. Pictures of Chantal and other models on a photo shoot, pictures taken on the set of one of her films, even a black and white picture of her on a sunny road with people he didnít recognise.

Gavin had hardly noticed anything he saw, his mind still filled with the confusion brought on by her close proximity. But there was something wrong with that last picture. He held it closer and scrutinised every detail, and at last his mind woke up. It was definitely her in the picture. With two women and a man of similar age. It could have been taken last week, but it hadnít been. It was the cars that were wrong. There were three of them. A Ford Angular, a Morris Minor, and a Zodiac. He looked at the sunglasses one of the women wore. The style was popular even now, but then it had been authentic. He continued to stare at the photograph as he spoke.

"This photo was taken in the sixties. Is this your mother?"

"No," she replied emphatically.

Gavin laughed. "Well, it canít be you!"

"Are you so sure?" she asked him.

He looked round at her. "Of course Iím sure! If it was you in the picture, youíd have to be at least sixty years old!"

She nodded solemnly. "Yes, and of course, that would be impossible. But appearances can be deceptive."

She uncrossed her legs and sat forward once more. But instead of just sitting there, she began to move closer to him. Gavin watched her approach, his eyes fixed by her expression. It was so sensual, so innocent, and yet so yearning. Before he knew it he had fallen backwards on the sofa. She climbed over him relentlessly, straddling him on the sofa and moving closer and closer until she was nose to nose with him. All he could taste and smell was her. It seemed to envelope him like a warm, thick, pink cloud. And at the heart of it all were those tremendous blue eyes. They hovered over him like blue planets as she looked right into his eyes, right into his soul. And when she spoke, her words seemed to breathe right into his mouth like a soft and delicate whisper.

"Have you ever wondered why men and women are so different? Why women think differently to men, why they are built so differently? Have you ever wondered why women need love while men only seek sex? Have you ever wondered why the back of your neck tingles when you get scared?"

She looked at the confused expression on his face. "No? Then I will tell you. A long time ago, when Neanderthal Man still held sway, my people came to your world. We did not come with intent, but by accident, and at first we were few and life was harsh. But we were intelligent, strong, and we had the power."

Gavin stared into her eyes and swallowed. "The power?"

She smiled and brushed his lips with hers. "You feel it now. You felt it before, but now it is much stronger. Now it brings the need in your body to the fore. Now that need drowns out all other thoughts. So it was with all the others. We used this power to steal the world from the Neanderthals. We took the place of their females and disturbed the genetic stability of their race. From us came modern man, but again it was not by intent but by accident. From that time on we have lived alongside you, hiding but ever present. Through all of history we have trod in your shadow. Sometimes one of us would come to the fore, like Bodica and the mighty Penthesilea. But always in the main we hid. Now is no different. For a short time I have walked free from the shadow, but now I must return. But before I leave there is one thing left that I must do. Do you know what that is?"

She was nuzzling his ear, and by now, Gavin was so lost in the feel and smell of her that he could only shake his head.

"Get even," she breathed, and suddenly she was gone.

The bedroom door burst open and half a dozen journalists and photographers emerged. They were all laughing as the flash bulbs went off. Gavin hauled himself into a sitting position and looked on, blinking. He knew all the men who were present, knew all the papers they worked for. All he could see were their laughing faces. He got quickly to his feet and his trousers fell down. He hadn't even felt them being undone. He turned amid the jeers and the laughter and saw Chantal at the open door. She had paused before leaving and now she cast her final barb.

"A cross between Jessica Rabbit and Barbie I might be. But you never should have said that I couldn't act. I'll see you in the morning, over breakfast, in the papers. Enjoy your fame -while it lasts."

She blew him a kiss and was gone.

-o-

For weeks afterwards, Henry Gavin faced laughter where ever he went, and also a little envy. It wasn't surprising really, it had been a good spread, and none of the papers had missed the chance for such a good story. Even his own paper managed to get the pictures. Although he featured prominantly with his trousers around his ankles, there were also several very seductive shots of Chantal kneeling across him on the sofa. They must have put a hidden camera somewhere. The whole sequence of events were shown in a comic strip panel. Gavin didn't care, he had other things on his mind.

Chantal had disappeared. She just seemed to vanish back into the obscurity from which she came. Gavin couldn't find any trace of her anywhere. Not even her friends knew where she was. He finally gave up looking for her. He didn't need to find her, of course, he sort of already knew where she was. She had gone to one of those places she had spoken about, one of those places where she was unknown. But he had wanted so much to see her again, to talk to her about something that was driving him mad.

He still had that picture she gave him at the hotel. The picture from the sixties. He had studied it again and again. He even had it digitised and enlarged. He checked every registration plate on the cars in the picture. They were all authentic numbers and the cars had all been scrapped over thirty years before. He even found the location of the photograph. He had stood on the very same spot by the road. It had changed dramatically, but there were the same old brick buildings in the distance, surrounded now by huge office buildings. But most of all he had studied the enlarged image of Chantal. It was definately her, he was sure of it. The problem was that every expert he took the picture to told him the same thing: It hadn't been doctored, it hadn't been altered in anyway. It was a genuine, original, ontouched, straightforwad, simple, 35mm photograph. Even the paper it was printed on was from the sixties.

Until the day he died, Henry Gavin kept the picture in his wallet. For most of the time he forgot about it. But every so often he would remember, take it out, stare at it, and wonder....
 

The End


Copyright © D. G. Richards 2001

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