Saturday, 16 May 2009
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET? - by Carol Bevitt
Another talented Talkbacker debuts...
DO YOU WANT TO KNOW A SECRET?
“The first time I saw his face was two months ago. Well that’s not true either, I mean we grew up together, but he didn’t look like he does now.” Sally lit another cigarette.
“Go on, readers want to know all about their favourite celebrity’s early life, especially from friends-ordinary people like they are.” Beverley Vincent was mentally salivating at the boost this exclusive insight, into the early life of the latest darling of daytime television, would give her career.
“We lived next door to him and his mum. He was a spotty teenager with glasses, and I was the beanpole, not much difference now in my case.”
Beverley knew no one could be as perfect as Jamie Benton appeared to be, and her fingers were itching with anticipation. He was the latest icon on the clubbing circuit; got an awards ceremony that needed hosting? Then ask Jamie. Want to improve your viewing figures? Invite Jamie as a guest and it was guaranteed.
“Back in ’71, he wanted to be called Jerry…we were seventeen. He played in a band, but he was tone deaf, and couldn’t sing for toffee. That didn’t last either…”
“Hold on, are you sure you mean 1971 not 1961? Jamie claims he’s thirty five, but you’re saying he was born in 1954. Knock a few years off, sure, but twenty?”
“Yeah, he’s that old. Expect he got plastic surgery.” Sally stubbed out her cigarette repeatedly until the end was a mashed mess.
“Jerry got mixed up with this strange bloke- never told me his name- but he took me to his place once. He’d moved in with this bloke by then, and it was weird, decked out like a cross between a Gothic horror film and a Sultan’s boudoir, it was…creepy. I wasn’t innocent; I’d smoked a few joints, nothing stronger mind.”
“Could have been some sort of cult. Did you stay there?” The whole story was starting to sound contrived, but Beverley’s instincts were telling her to listen. She knew that this connection could be enough to blow Benton’s Prince Charming image.
“I stayed twelve hours. That was eleven hours too long.” Sally lit another cigarette, tossing the spent match onto the pile that had already toppled over the edge of the saucer she was using as an ashtray, and joined the heaps of discarded buts and ash. “I got out, and didn’t see Jerry again. Until two months ago.”
“Yet, you are sure your Jerry is Jamie Benton?”
“I wrote to him. He came to see me. Told me to keep my mouth shut or I’d find trouble. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. Everyone thinks he’s so great, but they don’t know him. He’s making thousands and he wouldn’t give me anything. He said I could rot.”
Beverley could understand Benton not wanting to admit to any connection to Sally now. She was prematurely aged, her skin sunken and wrinkled at the same time; her hair grey and so matted it had probably been years since a brush had touched it. Even the clothes Sally wore looked like they were ready for the rubbish bin.
“Perhaps you could find me those photos Sally, and then we can decide which ones we can use.”
Beverley was relieved to be left alone.
The walls and curtains were nicotine- stained and added to the general feeling of neglect. She moved to the lone window in the basement room and attempted to open the casement to let some air in. The window was nailed down; the shiny heads buried in splintered wood and peeling paintwork.
Perhaps Sally was paranoid too.
Beverley stared at the dirty windows, trying to decide if any of this could be true, or was just demented fantasies. Perhaps Benton had only been here in Sally’s mind. Perhaps her Jerry was just someone who looked like Benton.
Facts were facts she decided, you couldn’t easily dispute those set down in black and white and official. Her friend Annie owed her a favour; she was a professional genealogist and would know how to get the proof Beverley needed.
Sally was back clutching a worn shoe box. “Here they are.”
“Great, let’s go through them and you can fill in the details so I’ve got everything clear.”
When she finally mounted the last step to the pavement of Chamberlain Terrace, Beverley stood breathing in the fresh air cleansing her lungs. Lifting her jacket she sniffed and wrinkled her nose; she stank of cigarette smoke. But it had been worthwhile persevering.
With the additional information Sally had given her, during their discussions over the photos, there was now enough to dig further. If it all fitted then she could compile a revealing expose; she just needed Annie to confirm those dates.
Then she smiled. If she sold this, she could afford to have her jacket dry-cleaned anytime.
Three days later Beverley sat looking at the copy of Jamie Benton’s birth certificate. Annie had confirmed that there had been no other entries that could cast doubt about this birth record. He had been born November 1954, so he was definitely not thirty-five. Combining that with the other information she’d been able to uncover about his connections to the cult Sally had mentioned, Jamie Benton was going to have some interesting questions to answer.
She was glad it wouldn’t be her asking them.
The background noise of the television didn’t intrude to where she sat typing, and the voice of the local news presenter didn’t register.
“The Police and Fire Service are investigating the cause of a blaze that gutted a basement flat in Chamberlain Terrace. Neighbours claim the owner was a recluse, and they believe she was inside the building when the fire broke out, but have not seen her since…”
The door buzzer sounded.
Carol Bevitt has been writing seriously for ten years. Usually her characters are falling in love, but occasionally less pleasant individuals emerge and demand their stories are told.