Emily took her time applying her makeup, making sure every stroke of eye shadow, every brush of mascara, and every daub of lipstick was flawless. After all her years of acting, this was to be her most memorable performance. She sifted through her jewelry, finding a garnet pendant and matching earrings, and matched them against the scarlet of her lips.
Yes . . . perfect.
She stood, her hands shaking as she wrapped around her a stole she had owned since the ‘50s. Fur was so politically incorrect these days, and for that reason alone she had hidden it away in the back of her closet for many years. Tonight, however, that wouldn’t matter. It was her exit, and she was going to do it her way—in style.
Her manager, a sweet young thing with blond curls and big blue eyes named Joe, entered with a knock. “I told the guy we’d be there at ten thirty sharp. You ready to do this?”
She nodded, taking a deep breath. She took one last look in her lighted mirror, admiring the flawless face in her reflection as she summoned the courage to leave this place for the last time. “I’m going to miss working with you,” she said, wishing there were another way.
“The pleasure was all mine,” he replied as she met him at the door.
He led her outside to the car, opened her door for her, and then walked around to the driver’s side. The engine started with an abrupt roar, then they were on the road heading for the agreed upon destination.
“I’ve never been so nervous in all my life,” she said, and with that, she lit a cigarette.
He glanced back at her though the rearview mirror. “Are you having second thoughts?”
“No, of course not. It’s just. . . .” She shook her head. “I don’t know. This has been my life for over a half century. I can’t imagine living any differently, especially in some obscure country that’s never heard of me.”
“Isn’t that the point?”
She nodded, looking down. I just never thought this day would come.”
He took a deep breath and focused on the road ahead.
“I just don’t know how I’ll sustain myself,” she continued. “I’m sure I can establish myself at some small, local theater once I’m settled in, but I’m used to much larger meals—masses in the tens of thousands at a time. What if I starve to death out there?”
“You’ll be fine I’m sure. Elvis had no problem adjusting, and neither did Marilyn or James.”
She nodded, although her face went tight with the torment of her uncertain future.
She had started her career on stage, finding the energy offered by willing admirers had somehow kept her youthful beyond her years. When she had graduated to film, somehow her fans continued to keep her young, despite the reduced contact. While her peers slowly applied more and more foundation to hide the fine lines, then the crow’s feet and laugh lines, and eventually the heavy wrinkles, performing had offered her a personal fountain of youth. She didn’t know how it worked, only that she was not all that unique in her condition.
The years passed quickly, however, and soon she found herself in a position she couldn’t have foreseen: the tabloids claimed plastic surgery, but anyone who knew her knew that she was living on borrowed time.
There were people who took care of problems like hers, people who helped to contain the secrets of the elite, the secrets of those whose bodies had discovered a means of transforming adoration into eternal life. Their services were not cheap, and successful execution of their work meant disappearing for a good century or two, until they had long been forgotten and their faces were once again fresh and far off the celebrity radar. Still, it meant giving up wealth, love, and everything else that had defined them for previous decades. Unfortunately, there was no other way. A staged death was their only out.
Emily realized her eyes were tearing, and she dabbed them with a tissue before they could run mascara down her face. No, she would go out with dignity. There was no room for tears.
She’d had a choice between a drug overdose, a car or airplane accident, a shooting, or suicide by bridge-jumping, and she had chosen the car accident. She had too much pride to go out by suicide or drugs, and she had always hated airplanes. Buddy had chosen the airplane route, and by a freak accident, his death had gone from staged to very real. No, cars were fairly safe these days, and even a light tap caused their exteriors to cave, making the damage look far worse than it really was. As far as she was concerned, it was the only way to go.
“We’re approaching the intersection,” Joe said, glancing down at his watch. “Right on time. Are you ready?”
She nodded, her throat going tight. “Let’s do this.”
She saw the paid car as it ran its red light, and immediately she felt the jolt of the impact, her teeth clenching with the crunch of metal on metal. As planned, she burst the blood packs that had been left for her, and she lay motionless as the cameras flashed and the ambulance came to take her away. She nearly broke character when she heard the cries of fans, wishing she could let them in on her little secret. Still she stayed to plan. This was how it had to be.
She opened her eyes as the ambulance sped off, just in time to see the EMT on call injecting her IV with a clear blue fluid.
“What’s that?” she asked, suddenly feeling drowsy.
“Goodbye, my dear,” said the EMT.
She struggled to remain conscious. “Goodbye?”
“We can’t just let psychic leeches like you run unleashed across the globe,” he said.
And with that, her world went dark.