Scene Stealer

Scene Stealer by Elise Warner

Book: Scene Stealer by Elise Warner Read Free Book Online
Authors: Elise Warner
crime in the city. The audience divided, judging from its reaction to the adolescent, into two hostile camps.
    â€œAnd that’s not all we have in store for you tonight,” the comic continued. “Norman’s expecting a phone call from a guy who claims to know all about little Kevin Corcoran’s kidnapping, claims Kevin Corcoran will be released if Robert Barton accedes to his ultimatum. So Hitting Bottom has a special guest, Robert Barton.”
    The audience was quiet.
    â€œThink you don’t know the guy? Well you do—especially you junk-food addicts. Barton’s the guy behind Cowboy Bob’s Big, Bad Burger. Fatburgers, some newspapers are saying. A little meat, a lot of fat and, to add extra spice, residue left over from the steroids and antibiotics mixed into the cow feed. That burger is Robert Barton’s baby, guys and gals. Is it pure poison? Norman is gonna ask Barton about that charge and maybe he and the man who claims to know all about little Kevin Corcoran’s kidnapping will have an intimate chat. Maybe Barton even knows who the crud is. Maybe we’ll get to the ‘Bottom’ of this hamburger caper.”
    The audience was paying strict attention to the comic’s words now. A self-satisfied grin spread over his moon-shaped face.
    â€œSit tight, folks, ’cause we’re about to begin. Now I know you’re not shy so feel free to react. Let’s smack those paws together and create a lot of noise because Norman Bottoms is here!”
    Bottoms, neatly dressed in a conservative, dark blue suit, button-down shirt and red tie, strode to the center of the stage, nodded to the crowd, glanced at his guests and finally stared directly into the camera—marked number one—as the stage manager cued his opening line.
    â€œListen up, everybody,” Norman Bottoms said.
    â€œWe’re listening, Norman,” the audience shouted back as camera number two panned around the theatre.
    â€œAmerica,” Norman continued. “America is really Hitting Bottom tonight.”
    â€œYeah! Bottom!” The audience chanted in near unison.
    â€œSitting here on stage. Here. Right here with you decent folks are three of the lowest scumbags ever to be my guests. On this stage are convicted kidnappers. After vacationing in their country-club prisons for a couple of years—free room and board—paid for by you and me, you and me, people, these scum are out. Breathing the same air we are. How about that?” Camera three focused on the kidnappers.
    Bottoms walked toward the lip of the stage. Camera three followed his every move. He raised his arms high above his head, the palms of his hands, fingers splayed, faced the audience. The crowd fell silent. With a sweeping gesture he pointed out a teenager, wearing a purple bandana around his head, standing near the right wing of the stage.
    â€œThat kid, that kid says he’s gonna protect you and me. He and his merry band of punks are going to protect us. Think he can do it? You want him to protect you? Want him to take over?”
    The crowd’s reaction was loud and mixed.
    â€œWell somebody better take over,” Norman said, “’cause I’m getting calls from kidnappers. A grade A, number one jerko called. He’s got Kevin Corcoran. The bucket of sleaze has our Kevin. Well? We gotta do something about that. Right?”
    â€œRight!” The roar was united this time, responding with additional jeers and obscenities. The tone was loud and ugly.
    The ex-convicts onstage shifted uncomfortably. The woman stared at a spot on the floor. Wadded pieces of paper and chunks of half-eaten candy bars flew past me and landed on the stage. One of the ex-convicts scratched at a persistent itch on his elbow.
    The woman half rose.
    The man seated next to me stood; trod on my right foot and rushed into the aisle without a word of apology. I stood and pressed against my seat to avoid being

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