was sitting behind a cup of coffee in Café Anastasia when
the girl with the lavender-colored glasses walked through the slab
of light at the front door, looking for a woman wearing a black
leather jacket and rhinestone nose-stud. The glasses looked good
on the girl but she couldn't see past the blunt line dividing sun
and shade and dropped her head to peer over the top of the rims.
I knew she searched for a woman in a black leather jacket because
she had called twenty minutes before and I wore a leather jacket
that day, as I do every day when the temperature drops below 95º
Fahrenheit. I sipped my coffee, the movement of my cup drawing her
eye. She stepped forward, her head tilted self-consciously high,
as though aware that she looked good when she held her head high
but also afraid that she might trip in the dim light and that wouldn't
look good at all.
"You're the photographer works for the tabs?"
"Sometimes," I said.
She took that to mean yes and sat the straight-backed chair across
the table. "They said you'd give a hundred dollars."
I watched the girl over the rim of my cup. I get a few desperate
people trying to sell me fabricated information every week and
it has taught me to be cautious, particularly of runaways. At
first sight she didn't look the type to sell tips to the paparazzi.
Her low-slung knit slacks, bare-midriff silk blouse and calf-skin
jacket appeared pulled from the racks of name designers. She'd
applied the makeup to her heart-shaped face subtly, as though
taught by a cosmetician instead of the myopic older sister with
a make-up kit who taught me and most of my friends. The girl knew
what money looked like even if she hadn't seen any of it lately.
She'd pulled her hair back in a tight ponytail to conceal that
it hadn't been washed in a week and when she'd turned to sit the
chair I'd noticed a swath of dirt at the seat of her pants.
"They said you'd give more," she said, "if I saw
someone really famous."
"I don't give anything. I buy information, if it's good
The girl nodded. She seemed to get it. She glanced over her shoulder
as though afraid someone might be eavesdropping then leaned far
over the tabletop to whisper, "About five minutes before
I called, I'm hanging out near the beach, just chilling, you know,
and I, like, look across the street and there's Chad Stonewell
walking into this place on Ocean Avenue, a restaurant, the Italian
sounding one with the valet parking on Broadway."
She had a sense of the melodramatic, at least.
"Chad Stonewell was a big star ten years ago," I said.
"Is he worth more than a hundred?"
"Back in his prime, he would have been worth more than a
hundred. Right now, I don't think I can sell his photograph on
E-Bay, let alone to the tabs."
The girl curled up from the table as though I'd just slapped
her. "Okay," she said. "I thought he'd be worth
"You hungry?" I asked. "Get whatever you want.
Her eyes drifted to the sandwiches, pies and cakes in the display
case at the back of the cafe, then snapped back. "I'm fine,"
"Who set you up with the tip?"
She flicked the tip of her index finger beneath her eye, obliterating
the tear welling in the corner before it could roll down her cheek.
"Nobody," she said.
"Somebody told you to call me, say you'd seen Chad Stonewell,
isn't that right? Some PR flack?"
"I saw him with my own two eyes." A second tear sprang
from her eye. She flicked it from her cheek and laughed. "What's
a PR flack? I don't even know what it is."
She held her head at an angle, as though she didn't know what
that was either.
"Get yourself something to eat," I said. "It's
part of the deal. Not your fault Stonewell's star sunk."