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Had Angela Doubleday continued to play a spaced-out hippie she would have finished in a one-bedroom apartment far from the studios and not on a two-acre estate in Malibu. The defining moment in her career came when the director Sidney Lumet cast her in the role of Anna, the voracious young wife in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms. Doubleday played Anna like a cornered lioness. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences likes nothing more than a surprise turn by one of its stars and gave her the nod for the first of four Academy Award nominations, the last for a low budget independent production in which she portrayed an aging Las Vegas showgirl battling drug and alchohol addiction.

The stalker attacked on the night she celebrated her nomination with members of the film’s cast and crew. He broke through a security barrier outside Spago in Beverly Hills and slashed a guard with his pen knife. The stalker had been following her for two months. Something glinted in his raised hand as he charged forward. Everybody swore it was the knife. An off-duty cop shot him. The stalker grabbed the bodice of Doubleday’s dress as he fell. He weighed no more than 130 pounds and was mortally wounded but gripped her so fiercely they sprawled together to the ground. The bullet had clipped his aorta. He bled to death in seconds. When the guards peeled him away they found a doll in the hand where the knife should have been. The doll was dressed and painted to look like Angela Doubleday. In the note pinned to the doll’s dress he wrote that he intended to give it to her.

I put my eye to the viewfinder again and panned from the house to the sea, where the stiff offshore breeze whipped a flotilla of catamarans and windsurfers beyond the wave break. For a moment the real world vanished. Only the image existed, bright and beautifully distant, the four corners of the viewfinder framing the world into a coherency I found lacking to the naked eye. A crack and splinter of brush behind me pulled my face from the camera. A man crashed through the chaparral on the opposite side of the rock, charging down the hill at such speed that when he glimpsed me in passing and tried to stop he skidded ten yards into a clump of sage. I yanked the 500 and inserted a 50 millimeter lens, not thinking much about him at the moment except that he was too close for the telephoto. The man had a wild and winded look, one hand grabbing the sage for balance and the other hidden behind his back as he stared at me, wide-eyed and panting. I didn’t confuse him for a day hiker, not after glancing at his corduroy pants and slick-soled loafers. I lifted the viewfinder and focused on his face. He didn’t look too happy about the camera. A four-day growth stubbled his jaw, which was the style of the moment, combined with black hair gelled back in thick grooves. His eyes were a bright, psychopathic blue. I figured him for a bodyguard, someone hired to keep creeps like me away from Angela Doubleday.

I took the shot.
He released his hold on the sage to climb up to me but the soles of his loafers wouldn’t hold on the hardpan and he slipped to one knee.
I took that shot, too.

He pushed off the ground, jerked a pistol from behind his belt and told me to give him the camera. He didn’t bother to point the pistol at me, as though I’d drop dead at the mere sight of one. I lowered the Nikon, let him see my face. I have a nice face. Some men find me attractive, particularly ones who don’t expect a woman to look like a Barbie doll, unless it’s one who dresses in black, wears a nose stud and can do a hundred push-ups in less than three minutes. I’ve done time, and when someone tells me to do something I don’t want to do, I’ve learned how to make my face a hard place to look at. I moved my lips carefully, in case he was slow to understand things. I said, “No.”
He took two nervous steps uphill, afraid of falling. “Look, I don’t have time to fuck around.”
“Then leave,” I said.

He inched up the hill again, dug the heel of his downhill foot into the dirt and pointed the pistol at me street punk style, one handed, the grip parallel to the ground. Instinctively, I raised the viewfinder to my eye, as though the magic prism of the lens would shield me from a bullet. Aggressive bodyguards are one of the hazards of my job. I asked, “What are you going to do, shoot me?”

I watched his finger tighten around the trigger, a movement simultaneous to my own finger pressing against the shutter release. A thought rimmed my mind as we waited for each other to shoot. If he actually did pull the trigger and I caught the flash of the muzzle as the bullet fired I’d rate a Pulitzer Prize in photography, if a posthumous one.

I took the shot.
Fired up slope, the bullet struck the camera at the join between lens and body. The viewfinder slammed into my eye like a good left cross.
I don’t remember going down.

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