"Jenna Crane, we meet at last - literally!" Andersen's gun pointed straight at her head. "Your last, that is. Too bad you don't have time to know me better."
Jenna crouched against the wall, well and truly trapped, and waited for her past to start flashing before her eyes. Fear was not the emotion she felt. What she felt, if anything, was anger at her stupidity which had allowed him the upper hand, not to mention the crass incompetence of A.N. Other. I need a plan, she thought, and a bit of bullet-time wouldn't go amiss either. Neither seemed very likely to come her way.
The explosion ripped at her eardrums. She'd forgotten how loud gunshot sounded at such close range. She felt no pain - absolutely none at all…which was odd. Andersen didn't look too comfortable, however. His eyes slid skywards, disappearing into his skull until only the whites showed as he slowly crumpled in on himself and toppled to the floor. That was bullet-time; real slow motion stuff. It reminded her of a collapsing tower block, skilfully detonated to drop straight in on itself, limiting the damage to the surrounding area. Very graceful.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Jenna demanded.
"Saving your life, again." Ellis muttered.
"Get off my case, you big weirdo! It's not your job to do that, it's mine. Yours is not to fight my battles for me - or have some half-wit do it. I do my own rescuing, remember? Who fired the gun anyway?"
"I haven't decided yet, but I thought maybe Patterson from EMPA. He's been on your case since chapter three. He could be your new love interest in the next series."
Jenna groaned. "Patterson's a complete dick. You'd have to rewrite him completely. Anyway he'd make a lousy love interest for me. Stop trying to over-feminise me, will you. I'm Jenna Crane, not Emily Madison. We don't work the same way. Chloe understood me, why can't she? Now rewrite that stupid scene or I'm going on strike." She stood looking mutinous and lovely, refusing to say another word.
Not that she'd actually said any of the other words or thought any of the thoughts, except inside his head. Naturally, Jenna couldn't speak of her own volition. He wasn't one of those writers who believed his characters had minds and wills of their own. He, Ellis Crawford, wrote the stories, not them; though he accepted their input at times.
Jenna's fans, however, thought differently. Jenna Crane, the fearless and feisty female detective of the Jenna Crane Mystery Series had a far bigger following than he - the humble writer - had. She was the star of several films, so that must make her real instead of some virtual ventriloquist's dummy who only spoke the words he placed in her mouth.
Over the years he'd allowed himself to lapse into juvenile madness and talk to her – usually when stuck on a scene. He treated her with the respect that was her due. But she wasn't a cutesy doll; she was a tough cookie who handled everything he threw at her. He should stop trying to soften her up – projecting Emily onto her. It changed her beyond recognition and there was no wonder she objected - and so would her fans. That androgynous quality she had was her hallmark. Even the babe who played her in the movies was flat-chested. Emphatically so; he'd discovered that for himself during the shooting of the first film. Jenna was too famous now for him to start subtly changing her. Not that he'd even attempted any subtlety. Besides, when Jenna went on strike, which she occasionally did, she generally took the other characters out with her and that left him staring forlornly at a blank screen. Classic writer's block.
He shook his head at himself before blanking his screen by pressing control plus A then delete and zapping the seven pages of rubbish he'd written that morning into a blue cyber-afterlife. His mind wasn't on his latest Jenna Crane today; it had taken wing and flown out of the window and across the street to worry about an entirely different problem.
Emily Madison. That was the problem and had been ever since Emily had moved into the house opposite with Dill, Poppy and Rowan – bizarre names – they sounded like a kids' cartoon about little plant creatures in a brightly-coloured country garden. He'd said that to them once, but Dill had just laughed, slapped him on the back and called him 'Dude' – American style, to rhyme with 'rude'. Ellis guessed he was stoned. That was in the old days, when Chloe still lived there. Last summer.
He'd allowed himself to get too involved with Chloe; or rather he'd allowed Chloe to become too involved with him. He had never intended it to become quite so serious, but it was strange how things worked out. Now it looked like history was repeating itself with Emily, which again was not quite what he intended - at least in the beginning. You get too involved with your neighbours and when it doesn't work out, you still have to live with them. Or opposite them. Until they leave, like Chloe did eventually. Well, quite abruptly, really