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Authors: Antony John

Imposter

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Copyright © 2015 by Antony John

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

John, Antony, date.

Imposter / by Antony John.

pages cm

Summary: “Seth Crane can't believe his luck when he lands his first big movie role, but when secrets only Seth knows—things his costars told him in confidence—start showing up in tabloids, it quickly becomes clear that nothing in Hollywood is as it seems”—Provided by publisher.

ISBN 978-0-698-15134-5

[1. Actors and actresses—Fiction. 2. Motion pictures—Production and direction—Fiction. 3. Fame—Fiction. 4. Love—Fiction. 5. Impersonation—Fiction. 6. Hollywood (Los Angeles,

Calif.)—Fiction. 7. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.

PZ7.J6216Im 2015

[Fic]—dc23 2015006691

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

Front cover street scene © LPETTET, iStock;

Man walking by Myles Kochi/Ethan Pigeon;

Shadow of couple © RyanKing999, iStock

Jacket design by Lori Thorn

Version_1

For Nick
Green

Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Epilogue

Acknowledgments

About the Author

1

“I WAS AFRAID YOU WERE NEVER
going to drink the poison.” Ellen adjusts the straps of her sleeveless dress. The front curtain is still drawn, and she wants to look perfect for the audience. “Were you watching me the whole time?”

She sounds suspicious. Maybe even a little freaked out. The honest answer is
Yes, I was watching you
, because in character, that's what felt right.

But I'm not Romeo anymore, and she's not Juliet. I'm back to being Seth, who went out with Ellen once after rehearsal and thought it might mean something. I also thought I was a shoo-in for a new series of Chevy commercials, but I guess I was wrong about that too.

The curtain parts. We lock arms and step forward with the rest of the cast. The standing ovation is spontaneous, the camera flashes persistent. Energy hums through us like a current.

I ought to smile. It's closing night of the first fully sold-out production in Valley Youth Theater Company history. We've had excellent write-ups in the local newspaper. The rest of the cast are practically cheering themselves, but I can't join them. The spotlights feel too bright, too hot.

“Bow!” Ellen stage-whispers.

I follow her lead, and when she retreats, I do as well. As the curtain closes, she tilts her head and clicks her tongue like a mother chastening her child. “Focus, Mr. Crane,” she teases.

Our cast mates exchange celebratory hugs. Ellen hugs me too. “See you at the party,” she whispers.

As she saunters past the front row of props, her friends fall in line beside her. She doesn't look back.

“Would've been nice if you could've smiled, Seth.” My brother's voice drags me around. Gant Crane, future paparazzo, stands stage left, examining photos on a ridiculously expensive camera. “I mean, I've got some awesome shots of the play, but the curtain call . . .” He shakes his head to underline how bad I must appear on the camera's small screen.

“You can just delete those ones, right?” I say.

“Uh-uh. Your director wants the full album.”

“I'll give you ten bucks.”

“She's giving me a hundred.”

“A
hundred?
For one evening?”

He raises an eyebrow. “It's only the stars of the show who get paid nothing. I told you not to get into acting.”

It's true—he told me that. He's annoyingly smart for a sophomore.

“You going to the party?” he asks, flicking his head toward the back of the stage.

“Later.”

He knows the word
later
is significant. “Is this about the Chevy commercial?”

“No,” I say. But I can tell he sees right through that lie too.

I did two low-budget TV commercials back in middle school, but the Chevy gig would've been huge. National exposure. Good money. They'd pretty much told me the part was mine. Instead, this afternoon I got a one-line email saying they were moving in a new direction.

“I just want to stay out here a minute,” I tell him. “Try to feel normal again.”

This time he raises both eyebrows. “News flash, Seth. You're wearing pointy shoes and five coats of makeup. Nothing normal about that.”

Gant snaps another photo and leaves. Brow furrowed, I probably look more like Hamlet than Romeo.

I slide around the front curtain and survey row after row of empty velvet seats. With the audience gone and the spotlights off, the place no longer seems magical at all. The wooden planks beneath my feet creak slightly. The air is tinged with the still-there smell of paint from the props that were only finished four days ago. I know because I helped to paint them.

“Little odd for the star of the show to be out here alone, isn't it?” someone calls out.

A guy ambles toward me. He looks about thirty. Goatee. Untucked white shirt and dark blue jeans.

I look around, but I'm the only other person here. “Costar,” I say.

“Uh-uh. Not all Romeos and Juliets are created equal. You know it. I know it. Everyone in the audience knows it.” He flutters a program. “Says here that in addition to his work with the
Valley Youth Theater Company, eighteen-year-old Seth Crane has appeared in the short movie
Taken Out,
as well as commercials.”

He places his hands on the stage and pulls himself up. Sits on the edge, feet dangling. “I'm Ryder. Ryder Whatley.” He extends his hand. I step forward and shake it. “So what's the issue, Seth?”

“Issue?”

“Show's over. You ought to be celebrating. But you're still here.”

“Yeah, well . . . I lost out on a commercial today.”

“That's too bad. Did your agent say why?”

“I don't have an agent.”

“Hmm.” He pulls out a card. Below his name is written:
WRITER
—
PRODUCER
—
DIRECTOR
. He has a Los Angeles address.

My heartbeat quickens. “What are you doing in the Valley?”

“Glad you asked.” He takes out his cell phone and touches the screen. Pulls up a movie website that shows production status on a film called
Whirlwind
. “You heard of this?”

I sit beside him. My legs dangle farther than his. “Yeah. Sabrina Layton's in it.”


Was
in it. Kris Ellis too. But then they split up in real life and everything went into limbo. Now we have a script and shooting schedule, but no leads.”

“Didn't anyone else audition?”

“Sure. Hundreds. But once the biggest teen actors in Hollywood signed on, I had better things to do than wade through hours of audition tape.” He chuckles. “Which is ironic, 'cause now I'm doing it anyway. Well, except for this evening.”

Ryder pinches the bridge of his nose. “Look, Seth, community
theater isn't my thing. But someone I trust told me to check you out. After I read that write-up in the newspaper, I figured, why not? And you know what? Watching you onstage, it was like I was seeing the character in my movie: the face, the movements, the voice. . . . What I'm saying is, I want you to audition.”

My feet bounce lightly against the side of the stage like I have no control over them. “When?”

“Tomorrow morning.” He turns his business card over and points to an address handwritten on the back. “There's a conference room at this place. Ten o' clock work for you?”

Before I can answer, a cheer erupts from backstage. When it's quiet again, the whole situation feels surreal—losing out on a commercial one moment, and auditioning for a movie role the next.

“I don't get it,” I say. “There must be hundreds of guys who want this part.”

“Sure there are. But sometimes we're looking for exactly the kind of person who's not looking for us.”

He watches me, waiting for yes. He must know how much I want this.
Need
it. It's written all over me.

With the audience gone, the noise from the lobby has all but died away. Nearby, the party is in full swing, but I won't go. I have other, bigger goals.

“Ten o' clock,” I say. “I'll be there.”

2

BY THE TIME I GET UP,
Dad's already in the kitchen in his creased pants and white T-shirt, fighting a losing battle with the steam iron.

“Do you have another interview?” I ask.

He nods.

“Can I help?”

He grips the iron tighter, his right hand so reliable. But his left still won't cooperate and the shirt shifts on the tiny ironing board. Now there's a sharp crease diagonally across the front. His stroke isn't just evident in every word and gesture, but even in the clothes he wears.

Three years ago, Dad suffered a transient ischemic attack—a kind of mini stroke. Thankfully it was minor, and at fifty-two, he was relatively young. Unfortunately, Mom was sick too, and he played it down so no one would panic. He should've gone to the ER. Should've had a CT scan or an MRI of the brain, and an echocardiogram of the heart. He should've taken blood thinners. But he wanted us to focus on Mom. So we did. Right up to the day, five weeks later, that he suffered a major stroke. Now only the right side of his face works—same for the rest of his body—
and he has trouble speaking. He gets angry easily. He wants everything to go back to the way it was three years ago.

He's not the only one.

“Seriously, Dad,” I say. “I can do it.”

He sets the iron on the board and backs away. Five minutes later, I've pressed his shirt and even worked out the crease.

“Th-thanks,” he says.

“No problem.” Then I realize that's not true—it's a major problem for him. “I mean, anytime.”

As Dad slopes off to his bedroom to dress, I join Gant in the cramped living room. He's sprawled across the sofa, admiring his latest crop of downloaded photographs on my laptop computer. At least, that's what I figure he's doing, but this picture is grainy and out of focus.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

He taps the screen. “Trying to find out who downloaded footage of last night's performance. There was an announcement before the play: no photography. But someone filmed it anyway, and now your cast mates will be checking themselves out on YouTube instead of waiting for the official photos.”

“Who cares?”


I
care. It's bad for business. What's the chance that director uses me again if no one orders photos, huh? This is my job.”

“You're sixteen, Gant. Not sixty.”

“So? I'm making as much as Dad, aren't I?”

Right on cue, our father emerges from his bedroom. I hope he didn't hear what Gant said.

For years, Dad worked in university finance, doing accounts
and audits and payroll. He could do the job just as well now as he used to, but he doesn't come across the same in interviews anymore. Today's meeting isn't for a finance job anyway—those are always Monday through Friday. He promised us he'd cast the net wider, but realistically, that means settling for a job he doesn't really want and for which he's overqualified.

He stands in the doorway, awaiting my appraisal. The shirt is fine, but the tie knot is a mess. I want to fix that too.

“Looking good,” Gant says.

Dad produces a defiant smile and heads out.

Gant waits for the door to close. “It won't be his tie that stops him from getting a job. So don't pretend like it matters.”

I want to tell him he's wrong. That sooner or later Dad'll get a job and things will change for us. But Dad hasn't had steady work in almost a year.

Then again, what if he didn't need to work?

Last night, I could hardly sleep for thinking about the audition. At three a.m., I was just about ready to forget the whole idea, rather than risk another disappointment. But the world looks different at eight a.m.

If my father can walk through that door, so can I.

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