“Move!” Catt screamed, ploughing through the hordes of college students, shoving them aside. “Get out of the way! Coming through. Excuse me! Move!”
Catt rounded the building, her backpack swinging from her shoulder and smacking against the brick wall. Tardiness wasn’t an attractive trait, but it was one she possessed all too well. Her alarm clock had been set for seven but somehow it hadn’t sounded and she had overslept by three whole hours.
Now she was racing across campus to get to the auditorium before John Craven finished showing a snippet of his latest slasher film. If she hurried, Catt figured she’d arrive just before the viewing ended and she could get some time with him at the Q&A.
John Craven was the epitome of horror movie directors. His career had begun long before Catt was born with classic monster movies, before stepping into the slasher and paranormal sub-genres of horror. Catt had been obsessed with him since she was young, after sneaking downstairs to spy on her older sister and her date. The movie Things That Go Bump in the Night had really scared her at the time. Of course, she was five, but it opened her eyes to something. From that point on she decided she wanted to be a director. Craven became her idol and she had spent most of her high school life with a video camera attached to her hand.
She pulled open the auditorium door and stepped inside.
Her eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness as she rushed to find a seat close to the stage. Not surprisingly, the only people that had bothered to show up were the film majors.
Sneaking into a second row seat, Catt dropped her backpack on the floor between her legs. Breathing heavily, she focused on the screen. Some stereotypical big bosomed blonde was being hacked to pieces by a maniac.
The acting was horrible, the effects were weak and the filming was shaky. It was a throwback to the films of the seventies, and standing on the principals of cinema that John Craven had built his legacy on; no CGI use, theatrical makeup, overacting. The list could go on.
Yawning, Catt rested her head in her hand, propping her elbow up on the arm of the chair. She could feel the energy being zapped from her body as the realization that this film looked exactly like every other film Craven had directed. The man reused the same ideas time and time again.
As the blonde on screen died, the maniac stood victorious, their hands in the air, the screen faded to black.
A smattering of applause from the audience shocked Catt back to reality.
Standing at the podium was the dean of the college. She smiled before welcoming John Craven to the stand for the Q&A.
Catt leaned forward. She had prepared ten questions for this moment. She had also prepared a CV to hand him after the session was over. She desperately wanted to be a part of one of his movies and nothing was going to stand in her way.
For the next twenty minutes, Catt waved her arms around, trying to get the attention of her idol. Instead, Craven took questions from the other side of the room.
Admitting defeat, Catt slumped back in her seat, arms folded, her bottom lip jutting out in a perfect pout. She stared at her question list. Most of them on there had already been asked, so she couldn’t really be that upset. But she really wanted to be the one who got to ask the questions.
Her fingers brushed over her question list. The only one that hadn’t been answered thus far was question nine; Why Do You Never Work With The Same Actress Twice?
Catt tilted her head slightly. She began recounting all of Craven’s films. Sure enough, none of the actresses he worked with reprised their role in a sequel or appeared in any other of his works.
Catt’s brow furrowed. Now that she thought of it, she didn’t remember seeing any of the actresses in anything else. She shrugged, shaking the thoughts of ill-fate from her mind. Guess they couldn’t hack the Hollywood scene and moved back to Kansas or wherever they came from.
“That’s it for today.”
Huh? Catt snapped out of her thoughts and stared at the stage to see John Craven being surrounded by film geeks.
“You going to join them?”
Catt spun around, her ink black hair whipping her face. “Claire? When did you get here?”
Claire Westwood was her best friend and often the one person that put up with her incessant ramblings about the horror genre.
“Been here since it began. I called you, like, twenty times.”
“Drats.” Catt pulled her phone from her bag. Sure enough, twenty-two missed calls from Claire.
“Claire, I’m sorry but I really just need to get five minutes with Mr. Craven,” she replied, shoving her phone back into her bag and grabbing out a folder. “This is the best chance I’ll have of working with him, so I prepared a CV.”
“Yeah, you and every other film geek on this campus.”
Catt followed Claire’s gaze to the stage. Sure enough, every single film major had leapt onto the stage to bombard Craven with their questions or grab a poorly taken selfie.
She turned back to Claire, stomping her foot in frustration. “Great. Now what am I going to do? I couldn’t get him to look over to this side of the seating. How am I supposed to get noticed through that hordes of geeks on stage?”
Claire shrugged, tossing her backpack over her shoulder. “You’ll just have to get him alone,” she quipped.
Catt felt a wicked smile grow on her face. “Alone, huh?”
* * * * *
Catt pushed open the door to the men’s room and poked her head inside. Wrinkling her nose in disgust at the smell protruding from the urinals, she stepped inside, getting down low enough to see under the stalls.
“Mr. Craven? I’m sorry to intrude on your personal time, but it was the only way I could get some face time with you.”
“What the-?” came a gruff voice from the stall. “Don’t you realize this is a men’s room? As in if you don’t have a penis, you shouldn’t be here.”
Catt cringed. “Yes, and I know that, but you see, sir, this was the only way I could get you alone long enough to hand you my resume and tell you a little bit about myself.” She reached into her bag, removing her resume from the folder and holding it under the door for Craven to take.
“My name is Catt Salinger. Well, actually my name is Catherine, but
everyone calls me Catt. Guess it could be considered a pet name.”
The toilet flushed.
John Craven emerged from the stall, his face bright pink, as he zipped his pants. “This is the most absurd encounter I have ever had. And that includes the time I woke up after a four day bender in the middle of the desert with Mark Thompson, in nothing but my underwear and a pink tutu.”
Catt’s eyebrow arched. “OK. I’m not sure how I should respond to that,” she stammered, slowly edging back to the restroom entrance. “But please, Mr. Craven. I’ve been a fan of yours for many years. I just want the opportunity to show you my work and see if there’s any room for me on one of your next projects.”
John Craven washed his hands, his grey mustache twitching. “I found your resume outlining your body of work most useful,” he remarked, reaching for a paper towel.
Catt’s eyes grew wide when she realized that he didn’t have her resume on him. A feeling of dread washed over her and she glanced at the stall. He had flushed her resume.
Whistling, Craven pushed past her, exiting the bathroom, while Catt stared at the toilet stall in disgust and dismay.
* * * * *
“Where is the damn car?”
John Craven tapped his foot impatiently. He had been waiting for his town car to get him off Pendleton University campus for the last hour. The smell of desperation from the students on campus was giving him a headache. And that one girl who actually thought it was a good idea to invade his personal space in the men’s room was just the icing in the cake.
The pearl black town car pulled into the parking lot.
Craven opened the back door and climbed in. “Where the hell were you? Don’t you realize that pick up was an hour ago? I’ve been trying to avoid these students since the lecture was over.”
The window behind the front seats rolled down to reveal Catt wearing a chafers hat. “If you hated giving inspiring talks, why bother volunteering to do so?” she mused, flashing him a megawatt smile.
“How did you get into my car?!”
Craven was outraged. This had to be an invasion of privacy.
Catt smiled. “I seduced your driver and convinced him that I could pick you up. All I want is five minutes of your time. It’s the fans that made you as popular as you are. Maybe you should show them some respect.”
“The fans had nothing to do with it,” Craven scoffed. “My work speaks for itself.”
“True, but if you’re work isn’t shown to your fan base, you don’t earn the big bucks thus making your movies irrelevant. So really, you should be thanking me.”
The vein above Craven’s left eye began to bulge. “You won’t take no for an answer, will you?” he remarked, forcing a tight smile to his face.
Catt grinned. “Nope. In fact, I’m so convinced that I’m right about you that you’re going to beg me to join your crew.”
John Craven clucked his tongue as he stared at the woman in front of him. She was tenacious, which was usually something he liked in a woman. Usually being the key word.
“Salinger. Catt Salinger.”
“Salinger. I will give you an opportunity to show me exactly what you’re made of. Tonight. My compound up on Riverton Drive. Eight o’clock. I’m auditioning an actress for a role in an upcoming feature called ‘Director’s Cut’. If you really want to be a part of the movie industry, you can come along and film the audition.”
Catt’s smile widened, her eyes sparkling with glee.
“Mr. Craven, you will not regret this,” she said, extending her hand through the small window and shook his hand. She opened the driver’s door and smiled at the waiting chauffeur. “He’s all yours,” she informed him, broadening her grin as she scooted off, heading across campus towards her dorm.
The chauffeur climbed into the car. “Sorry, sir,” he stated. “She was quite tenacious.”
Craven nodded, his eyes narrowing. “Yes, Adam. She certainly is.”
* * * * *
Catt pulled up out the front of an old, derelict mansion at the top of Riverton Drive. She glanced at the clock. 8:22PM. Crap. She was late.
She checked her reflection in the review mirror. If her eyeliner hadn’t taken so long to even out, she would have been on time.
She climbed out of the car and walked up the cracked path. Weeds had strangled most of the plant life, intertwining among the shrubs and trees. Catt felt uneasy as she crept along the path, getting a sense that something was watching her. A bush rustled near her feet. Snapping her head around, Catt gulped, her hand on her heart. “Please be a cat,” she begged, taking a tentative step backwards.
The bush rustled again, louder this time. Catt shrieked, turning and running to the front door. Her imagination was going wild. As much as she loved horror movies and John Craven, his house, if indeed this was his home, was creepy. There wasn’t much that disturbed her, but this place was certainly giving her spine-tingling chills.
She knocked on the front door, turning her head to scan the bushes behind her. The door opened and a cute, busty blonde emerged. “You must be Catt!” she squealed with sheer delight. “I’m Candy. I’m John’s actress.”
“Candy? Nice to meet you. I’m sorry I’m late. My GPS lead me on the longest route imaginable.” Candy waved her hand in a dismissive manner, informing Catt that her tardiness wasn’t an issue. Especially as John was on a conference call.
Candy stepped aside as Catt entered the house. The house may have looked old on the outside, but inside was luxurious mansion, completely updated with all the bells and whistles of the 21st century. It was deceptive and Catt was in awe.
Candy closed the front door and stood beside her, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulders and flashing Catt a million-dollar smile. “John had the house completely renovated inside, yet left the outside hideous. He said it was to deter people from coming to the front door,” she quipped.
Catt nodded. It had almost worked on her. Almost.
Catt turned around to see John stomping his way down the hall, tossing the phone onto a side table.
“Always wanting things right then and there. Useless sacks of shit.” His gaze fell onto Catt, his face breaking into a smile. “Ahh, our tenacious college student has finally arrived,” he teased, wrapping his arms around her. “I hope Candy introduced herself to you. Candy Appleton, this is Catt Salinger.”
“Wait a minute,” Catt started, turning to face Candy. “Your name is Candy Appleton?”
Candy nodded, her brow creasing. “I know. Mom named me Candy Morris, her name. My father was out of the picture long before I came along. She met a man who would become my step-father. He adopted me when I was three and my name was changed to Appleton. Sadly, by the time the paperwork was approved, it was too late to change my first name. I’ve been Candy Appleton since.” She shrugged. “It could be worse.”
Catt chuckled. Candy took it all in stride, adjusting her white blouse and flashing John a warm smile. “Shall we begin?” she asked, tucking a loose strand of golden blonde hair behind her ear. John nodded, escorting Candy by the elbow into the lounge.
“Before we begin, Catt are you familiar with that camera?”
Catt stared at the video camera set up on the tripod. It was old, certainly not the professional standard of which she was accustomed to at university. She approached it, gingerly reaching out her hand. It was an antique in comparison to what she was used to, but all cameras worked in a similar fashion.
She searched for the record button and located it on the side, near the zoom and shutter. “Not this particular sort, but it looks simple enough,” she told John, tying her dark hair up into a high set ponytail.
A faint smile played on John’s lips. “It’s quite easy really,” he told her.
“It’s a point and shoot. If you’re successful in dealing with this, we can look at getting you use to something more advanced.”
Catt’s eyes lit up. Something more advanced sounded a lot like John might consider her for an apprenticeship on one of his features.
She positioned herself behind the camera, her hand gliding over the buttons, familiarizing herself with the technology. While she was preoccupied, John was talking with Candy about the scene they were going to do. It was a scene from his new picture.
“Alright, Candy. This is the big climax of the film. This is where Bill is discovered to be the killer to the audience. Now remember, the key to this audition is believability. I need the audience to feel your anguish, your pain, and above all, your fear.”
“Right.” Candy nodded, shaking her shoulders in some sort of preparation ritual.
John held up a knife. “This is the weapon that will be used.” He pushed the blade down with his hand. Catt watched in amusement as the knife retracted. It was a prop knife. John explained to Candy that as he stabbed her, blood would spurt from the knife, making the audience feel that she was indeed stabbed.
Catt felt herself smirking. It was the same sort of knife that the film majors used in class. Most of the boys would pretend to stab each other, reciting lines from Shakespeare as though they were world-renown thespians.
Candy nodded. “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
Catt held her hand over the record button. She was ready. She wanted to prove to John that she was indeed perfect for this industry. That she would do anything to make it big.
John turned to face her, sliding the knife into his pocket.
Catt hit record, her eye trained through the looking glass.
John raced into the room and up to Candy who was visibly upset. “Jennifer, have you found Mary?” he demanded. Candy threw her head back, her hair gleaming in the low lighting. “Oh, Bill, I did. But you’ll never believe where.”
Catt bit her lip to prevent herself from laughing. The script was horrendous, and Candy’s shrill voice didn’t do much for believability.
“Where is she? We need to leave. Now!”
“Oh Bill, it’s horrible. I think the killer got to her.”
“What makes you think that?”
“Her head was in a hat box. Her feet were in a shoe box. And the rest of her was hanging in the closet like someone’s coat.”
Catt’s knuckle found its way into her mouth. She couldn’t help it. It was hilarious.
“What about Martin? Did you find him too?”
Candy nodded, tears streaming down her face. Catt had to admit, the woman could cry.
“It’s just as bad, Bill. He was slumped over the bathtub, his insides on the outside.”
“Don’t ask, Bill. They’re all dead.”
“Well, not all.”
Candy stopped crying, blinking back tears. Her mouth opened in shock as John pulled the knife from his pocket and plunged it into her stomach, repeatedly slashing her over and over again.
Blood covered her shirt and his hands as he stabbed her in a frenzy.
Candy’s body went limp as she fell to the ground. Catt was in awe. Sure, the dialogue was terrible and Candy’s acting skills would be horrendous in a porno, but she had her shining moments. She could cry on cue, and be believable while sobbing uncontrollably. But it was the way her body went limp, the light draining from her eyes, that had Catt most impressed.
John stood over his victim, the knife covered in blood.
Catt killed the camera. “Wow. That was amazing. Candy, you were phenomenal! I’ve never seen anything so believable.”
John smiled, wiping his bloody hands on his clothing. “Take a closer look,” he mused, stepping away from Candy.
An uneasy feeling washed over Catt, as she stepped around the camera. Candy hadn’t moved from her place on the floor. Her eyes moved towards Catt, her mouth parted slightly. She coughed, blood spurting over her face, air bubbles appearing at the corners of her mouth.
“Candy?!” Catt knelt beside her, taking her hand. She checked Candy’s pulse. It was faint but thankfully still beating.
John appeared behind her. “Yes, in order to get the realism I require, sacrifices have to be made,” he quipped, tilting his head as his eyes rested on his victim.
“You killed her?!” Catt was flabbergasted.
“No, my dear. She’s not dead. Not yet.”
He grabbed Catt by the arms, hoisting her up into the air. Instinctively, Catt kicked out at him, fighting against his strength. He may have been older than her, but his strength was surprising.
“You are going to finish her off,” he told her, his faces inches from her own. “You will end her suffering.”
“I can’t,” Catt protested, tears brimming in her eyes. “I won’t.”
“But I thought you wanted a job on one of my movies,” John sneered. “And you did say you’d do anything to get a position on set. This is what I require. If you can do this, then maybe, just maybe, you will take over for me. Be my protégée, so to speak.”
Catt stopped fighting. She hung limply in his arms. “You really mean it?” she questioned.
Candy let out a garbled cry.
John smiled. Catt was coming around. Her tenacity would be her weakness. She wanted to be a director, to follow in his footsteps. He was giving her the chance too.
He lowered her to the floor, his hands still gripping her arms firmly. Catt’s demeanor changed. Her eyes held a wicked glint while she seemed more relaxed.
John held out the knife. Catt reached for it, their hands touching briefly.
She flicked him a seductive glance as the weapon exchanged hands.
Holding the knife like an experienced serial killer, Catt approached Candy, kneeling back down beside her body. Candy whimpered, her hands pressing against the wounds of her stomach. She held her hand up, shaking violently, silently pleading with Catt not to do any further damage.
Catt raised the knife above her head, both hands grasping the handle. John stood behind her, smiling broadly. Candy’s garbled pleas filled Catt’s ears.
“Shut up,” Catt hissed, knife poised. Candy began shaking her head from side to side. She didn’t want to die.
Catt arched her back, her fingers twitching. She closed her eyes and plunged the knife into John’s left leg.
He let out a howl as she twisted the blade, creating a gaping wound.
Catt removed the knife and watched her mentor fall to the floor with a loud thud.
“You stupid bitch!” he screamed, his hands covering the hole in his leg.
“I’ll make sure you never step foot on a movie set again!”
Catt rose to her feet. She held up the knife, its blade streaked in crimson. “Funny,” she remarked, admiring the craftsmanship of the handle. “I was just going to say the same thing about you.”
With a swing of her arm, the blade connected with John’s neck. Blood oozed from his slashed throat. His hands wrapped around his neck in a feeble attempt to prevent more blood loss.
Catt’s eyes never left him. As his skin lost its pallor, she smiled in satisfaction. He had taught her a lot about film in the short time she had known him. She knew just how to get the perfect performance from her actors.
Candy let out an intense moan that snapped Catt back to reality. Catt raced into the hall and grabbed the phone. With a shaking hand she dialed the police and requested an ambulance.
She sat down beside Candy, holding her hand and brushing her blood stained hair away from her face. “Police are on their way, Candy. Just hang on.”
* * * * *
The auditorium erupted into cheers. The curtain to the cinema screen closed.
“We have time for a few questions,” said Mrs. Moseley, the dean of the college. She adjusted her glasses on her nose. “I’ll hand the floor over to our esteemed guest. Who has a question?”
Hands shot up all around the auditorium. A husky male student, with dark hair and eyes to match stood up. He cleared his throat before he spoke. “What is the one element horror movie directors are neglecting to use?”
Mrs. Moseley gestured to the podium.
Crossing the stage swiftly, the illustrious Catherine Salinger adjusted the microphone on the podium.
“It’s like my late mentor once said,” Catt said. “The key to any good movie is believability. The audience need to feel your anguish, your pain, and above all, your fear. For if you don’t believe your life truly is in danger, how do you expect the audience to?”