Tainted Spotlight

Part 1- The Star

The crowd were getting restless; fidgeting uncomfortably in the rising temperature of the auditorium as the capacity reached its limits, the smell of sweat mixing with alcohol and the murmurings of multiple conversations happening at once. The floor, parts that were not sticking to peoples shoes, was littered with empty cups, wrappers and anything else people did not want to carry on the long train ride home. People didn’t mind the dyer conditions, the fact that there was not a part of there body that had not been bashed, grabbed or stood on as they pushed there way through the crowd to get closer to the front. To see her.

Backstage; conditions were very different, an air-conditioned spacious room played host to Scarlett, a rising star on the music circuit. Bringing modesty to music that was unheard of in this day and age. She was far from the pop stars you get today; she didn’t crave attention, go out wearing revealing clothes, ensure she was stick thin and make unnecessary requests. Instead she focused on her writing; swapping alcohol for her guitar, clubbing for games nights with her family and you would never find pictures of her falling out of a club or flashing her knickers to the cameras.
Hearing the crowd noisily start to chant her name, she gave herself one last check in the mirror. Her red hair fell gracefully down her back, skimming the top of her bra strap. Zipping up her dress, she tugged at the bottom uncomfortably. Wishing the stylist would choose close more to her liking, she edged towards the door. The crowd was becoming deafening as the lights were dimming on stage announcing her imminent arrival. As she stepped on stage and the spotlight danced around her, she felt the usual butterflies forming in her stomach, she started to sing and the crowd went wild. This is where she was meant to be and for the next three hours she would deliver her best performance yet…

Breathless, exhausted but glowing from the adrenaline only a standing ovation can give you, Scarlett came off stage. Rushing into the changing room, she quickly got into her next outfit while the stage shouted out for an encore. This is what she wanted; peoples admiration, girls wanting to dress like her, men wanting to sleep with her. She loved there admiration and used it to inspire the sex fuelled lyrics that had pushed her to the top.

At 25; she had it all, 6 multi platinum albums, an Oscar for her supporting role in some generic romcom, her own perfume, book sales, TV channel and was a regular on the catwalk. She still lived with her mum but that was by choice; through school Christina had been her beacon of support, was up all night with Scarlett when her assignments were due in, made her laugh when she wanted to cry and ensured that she stayed grounded and didn’t become one of the celebrities whose behaviour is more popular than there music.

As the music got louder, Scarlett plastered the smile on her face and run up the stairs, these people needed to believe that she loved them and adored them.

“So do you want to hear another?” she shouted down the microphone and the screams became so loud she could barely hear the starting riff. As she finally finished the concert, her entourage of bodyguards surrounded her, moving her towards the meet and greet room. She did love this part, how could she not, her fans were always shocked to meet her and gratefully accepted the treats she would give them all. She always left those events with a smile on her face- it even made her feel a little guilty because she knew the real reason behind them. The bodyguard rubbed the back of his neck, which was the sign. They had arrived.

Looking round the room; she spotted the dull ginger hair pulled back in a ponytail with a long fringe tucked behind her ear. Scarlett laughed to herself, who did she think she was kidding-she was approaching 30 and still dressing like a teenager. She watched as she laughed with the other fans that were there- anger slowly bubbling up inside her, this was one of her tormentors- the girl had made her life hell in school and now it was time for her to get revenge.

Part two- the victim

Scarlett had not always been like this- oh no- far from it infact. In school she had excelled in academia but had failed to form any friendships. She had tried everything; changing her hair colour from its normal brown colour to a fiery red (something that had stayed with her), started wearing clothes that, as a single parent family, she could hardly afford and even taking up smoking. None of this helped- people just didn’t acknowledge her unless they had an assignment that she could help them with.

Realising that she could not change; Scarlett threw herself into different clubs, chess, mathletes, creative writing and a study club to ensure all her homework was completed on time. Yes, this didn’t make her popular amongst her peers but her mum worked full time and this helped fill the gap until she came home so Scarlett was never alone.  Filling the time helped. She was an easy target for bullies when walking home so, as often as she could, she would work late in the hope that the bullies had got bored and gone home. 50% of the time she was successful but sometimes, she just had to risk it. Walking home with her cousin, she thought she was safe- but then she heard the laughter. Dread filled her immediately but she did not want to show it to Damien, walking with her head held high, she ignored the calls and taunts that came behind her.

A silence followed that still haunted Scarlett today, it meant that they were planning something and with Damien by her side, she was trapped. She couldn’t run and have him left behind, he would never hurt a woman, and they would destroy him.

“Scarlett, can we borrow your phone please?” called Morgana. The apparent ringleader of the group; Morgana had sharp features, a thin frame and a viper tongue.

Fear ripped through Scarlett- she knew it was a trap but what could she do? She couldn’t ignore them and keep walking as it would only make them angry. Resigning herself to the fact that she was going to just have to give in; she turned, a nervous smile on her face to hide her reluctance as she handed it over. Morgana’s ‘friends’ kept a close eye on Scarlett whilst Morgana distanced herself to make the phone call. When she came back, she handed the phone back, Scarlett hesitated but then took it from her- maybe this was a new start between them.

Letting her guard down, she turned and started walking away with her cousin. A sharp pain spread through the back of her head and she was thrown backwards. Hitting the floor hard, Scarlett struggled for breath as she got unsteadily to her feet, looking around for implication of what had happened to her. It didn’t take long to ascertain that she was in danger. The girls had pinned Damien to the floor and were covering his mouth as he shouted for help. Instinct kicked in as Scarlett stepped forward to help, but common sense left, she ignored any noise behind her and lunged at the person holding Damien. She didn’t get very far before she felt herself hurtling to the ground; the metallic taste of blood filled her mouth as something hard forced itself down her throat- swallowing hard she tried to stand but the group had circled her now and she knew there was nothing she can do. Slowly letting her body lay on the floor; she tucked her head in as far as she could to protect it and just let the group beat her, vowing that she would not let anyone do this to her again.

Scarlett looked in the mirror, it had been 6 months since the accident and it was still tender. Despite her attempts to protect herself, she had needed 32 stitches in her face alone. Spurred by her need for revenge, Scarlett had thrown herself into very different after-school activities- Chess was replaced by Kick boxing, Creative Writing turned into Army Cadets- learning valuable survival skills and Mathletes was replaced by Athletics. Within a year, Scarlett had excelled at all three and was a different woman. She feared nothing, no one or any situation.

Part three- the trap

“Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett”

Michael’s booming voice brought her back into reality; taking a minute to focus her, he asked if she was ready.

“Of course I am, stop bothering me” she said a little too curtly and braced herself for his response. In all the years she had had Michael as her bodyguard, he had put her in her place when she was being a brat. His broad chest raised and lowered in shallow breaths as he tried to calm down. Scarlett ran her hands over his arms, stroking them and hoping that he did not lose his temper here.

“I’m sorry. You know how they get me”

“It’s fine. Just don’t do it again- remember now, more than ever, you need me”

Towering over her with his 6ft 9 frame, Scarlett felt safe, but she was still anxious. Although she knew what she had to do, she really didn’t want to do it, she always felt sick afterwards.

Forcing a smile on her face, an action that seemed all too familiar to her now, she waited for Morgana to be at the front of the line for the meet and greet. As she posed for a picture with her, she feigned surprise

“Morgana…really…Morgana Lyons, from Staffadore high?”

“Yeah?” Morgana asked as bile rose in Scarlett’s stomach, she did not even know what she had done to her.

“You were in Miss Haley’s class weren’t you? 36MT? You hung out with a group of friend’s right?”

“Yeah, I was. I had read that you went to our school but I never imagined you would remember me!” Morgana spoke rapidly, clearly awestruck.

“Of course I remember you, tell you what, how about we go for a drink after I finish with this meet and greet?”

“I would absolutely love to; I am not meeting my old school friends until tomorrow- you should totally come. They would love to see you” Morgana looked at her hopefully, the excitement showing in her eyes, she would just love to show them who she was ‘friends’ with.

“I will have to check my schedule but while you wait, let’s treat you like the VIP you really are! Michael, please take Morgana into my personal dressing room and give her the showbiz treatment: be nice!” She turned to her next fan and posed for pictures, all the while ignoring the blabbering gratitude coming from Morgana’s mouth. She had no idea what was coming to her.

Part 4- The Preparation 

Waving one last goodbye to her fans, Scarlett left the meet and greets, and walked down the long hallway to her room. The hallways were strangely bare without Michael’s muscular frame taking up all the light. It gave her time to think about the enormity of what she was about to do, she would never be the same and life would not be the same. Yes, this woman had made her life at school hell, but did she deserve this? Scarlett could still walk away, still be innocent in all this?

Holding her head up, Scarlett cursed herself for being so weak as to have doubts; this woman hurt her in ways that people could not imagine. The taunting, comments, sniggering and beatings had stayed with her despite her stardom- and if she could just do this then she would be free from all that.

Entering the changing room, Scarlett was pleased to see Michael showing her the trophy case, a smug grin spread across Scarlett’s eyes as she saw the longing in Morgana’s eyes. Revelling in the envy; Scarlett stepped forward, and once again put that smile on her face.

“Morgana, do forgive the ill manners of Michael, would you like a drink? Champagne maybe?

Wine fresh from the vineyard?” Scarlett had to admit, she did like being able to brag about the amount of money she had and Morgana happily accepted. Handing her the glass, Scarlett hoped that the taste was not affected by the drug and that Morgana would be to excited to notice that her hand was shaking. She didn’t want her to be suspicious of what was going to happen to her.

Relaxing on the sofa, Scarlett listened intently as Morgana told mundane stories about her life; the children that she lived with but barely raised, the gigs that she seemed to be at every weekend and the amount of alcohol she drank. The guilt that Scarlett had originally felt was slowly replaced by venom the more she heard; her poor daughters deserved so much better than a mum who would ignore them, berate them and all but abuse them. She had not changed from the bitter, angry, hate fuelled girl who had tormented her in school.

Still listening; Scarlett was delighted when Morgana’s words started slurring, showing signs that the Ketamine was working. She would be able to see everything happening to her but not feel it meaning she could not scream and alert others of what was happening behind closed doors.

Watching Morgana slump in the chair, Scarlett knew she had to act quickly for this to work, if the drug wore off before Morgana was restrained then they would never be able to overpower her. Damien lifted Morgana so that she sat upright while Scarlett went into the closet and got out the plastic containers carrying water from the local river.

She didn’t blame her for everything that she had been through, that would be ridiculous, but she did blame her for making her start so bad. There was no big action; no one thing that had hurt her. There were loads of little things, little digs made about her appearance and personality in the corridors, the isolation from everyone else in the group, the humiliation of taking all extracurricular activities from her. Scarlett needed to know why they had done this to her specifically? What had she ever done that was nasty to them?

A small groan let Scarlett know that Morgana was awake. She watched as Morgana realised what was happening to her, her eyes growing wide as she realised she was trapped- there was no escape. She started panicking, moving her wrists and ankles so fast that red marks were starting to form. With a simple nod of the head, Scarlett motioned for Damien to restrain her, if marks were found on her wrists and legs then the police would know this was foul play.

Grabbing a pillow from the sofa, Scarlett pressed it against her ribcage and punched as hard as she could, Morgana gasped and tried to catch her breath. Placing a silk scarf in her mouth, Scarlett hoped it would be enough to keep her quiet. She was the last one and Scarlett could stop hunting her tormentors down and focus on her art.

There would be not be as much talking in this one; over the years she had heard every excuse from her bullies for why they did what they did, from the pitiful “We were young and stupid” to “I was abused at home and wrongfully took it out on you”. None of them mattered, none of them made up for how badly she had been hurt that day or remove the scars from their little pranks on her.

Calmly taking a seat beside her Scarlett looked Morgana straight in the eye and asked the same question she had asked the previous deserving victims.

“Why me?”

Morgana grunted, her eyes showing her confusion at the question.

“Why bully me?”

“I was young, stu….”
“NO!” Scarlett stood up, sending her chair flying and raising her voice in frustration. Watching Morgana’s eyes widen in fear, Scarlett composed herself, as Michael fidgeted in the background. “No! You can not justify this with that answer. Youthful ignorance is not an excuse to bully people, to purposely find them to cause them pain, to start hate campaigns against them in school and online. Now, I will ask again, why?”

“I don’t know. You were awkward, a social misfit and a know it all. You didn’t ever want to have fun. Now please just let me go?” Morgana’s voice broke as she realised she was in trouble.

“Let you go! LET YOU GO! Did I get a release from it all? Did I get a day off? You bullied me everyday– you had no sympathy for me. Why should I have any for you?” Scarlett’s lisp started to reveal itself as the anger took over the years of speech therapy she had received.

“I am a mum now, I see things differently.” Realising she had some leverage, Morgana pushed “The kids know where I am, who I am with, I uploaded a picture on Facebook of us at the meet and greet so all my friends know I was with you that night. Have you thought about that?” Morgana smirked with confidence, thinking she had won.

“All sorted. Michael has updated your status using your phone.”

“What about fingerprints-my phone will now have his fingerprints” Morgana’s muffled voice started to become higher, as she clutched at straws to keep herself alive.

“You were at a meet and greet with me and Michael took the photos. No one will start worry for at least 3 hours.” Scarlett sat back and relaxed.

Scarlett rubbed her hands together; looking at the infinity ring on her left hand, the black diamonds run under the white band, taunting her and reminding her of a phrase her mum used to tell her about the wolves inside you and how you they are fed with the choices you make daily. She smiled as she remembered the day she was told the story and for a minute found herself softening and second guessing if this was the right thing to do.

Michael gently nudged her back into the land of the living, Scarlett regained her composure and gave him a smile, Michael had followed her loyally throughout her career. He had encouraged this plan and didn’t question her which made her slightly uneasy but while she could use him she would.

Michael walked over to Morgana, forcing his hands into a pair of latex gloves that were clearly too tight for him, now he had the delicate task of moving her without marking. That was crucial, if she was marked at any point then the game would be up, police would suspect fowl play. So far all the previous victims had been considered accidental- Scarlett had made each one different so they didn’t link them to her concerts. All they knew is that they were fans of the star which kept her out of the wrong spotlight.

Michael carefully placed his arms around the now tensing body of Morgana and lifted her in one swift movement. With her arms and legs bound in silk scarves, Morgana was making it difficult for Michael to move for fear of dropping her and causing her to bruise.

Her eyes widened and movements became more extreme as she realised they were moving towards the bathroom. Michael slowly walked, relishing the fear that he was inflicting on her, he didn’t know what she had done but if she had hurt Scarlett it was enough for him. Lowering Morgana down into the bathtub, he watched as she took in her surroundings and desperately looked for an escape. There was none. This was it.

Part 5- The act

Scarlett had been following behind them carrying the bottles of river water that they had collected last night. It had been surprisingly simple; Scarlett had sent her bodyguard out to get it, all the while being photographed out with her friends for the night. This would create the perfect alibi if she ever was caught. He put the bottles inside empty suitcases that travelled with Scarlett personally; the only people allowed to touch them were Michael and herself, ensuring the security of this operation.

Letting out a sigh, Scarlett braced herself, she hated this part. The venom in her did not stop her from feeling sick when taking the life from someone and especially a mother but she had come too far. If she didn’t kill Morgana then she would run to the police and that would be the end of her career, image and fan base. She would simply be the geeky lonesome child again that was desperate for someone to like her.

Undoing the tops of the tubs, Scarlett steadied her hand; the gloves helped her grip lids so they came off easily. Feigning weakness, Scarlett ensured that Michael took these off of her and would be the one to physically commit the act, as it had been with all of the killings previous.

Michael began to pour the water over Morgana’s face as Scarlett ran the shower to get rid of most of the dirty water that had ran down her face and had made its way to the plug socket. After the bath had been bleached by Michael and herself, she would have a bath to ensure that, if an investigation did happen, the only substances in the bath would be from her soaps and perfumes.

Morgana had stopped making screaming and now was making the gurgling noises of a women being flooded with water. Similar to that of gurgling mouthwash, she had began to struggle now, her bare feet trying to push her body out of the way of the influx of dirty water over her nose and mouth. She fought her way through 4 bottles of river water and, Scarlett was starting to worry that they wouldn’t have enough and this would all be for nothing, but then Morgana went limp and stopped fighting. Michael poured the last of the water over her mouth before checking her pulse. She was dead.

Scarlett didn’t feel the relief that she expected, a part of her felt like nothing was really relevant any more, the drive that had pushed her was gone and exhaustion overwhelmed her. But her job was not complete yet. She still had more to do before she could finally put this horrible year behind her and hopefully her demons could rest. Putting Morgana into a silver case used to transport some of Scarlett’s make up and props between venues, Michael placed Morgana gently into it, it was important that they did not bruise her or the scenario would flag up to the police. They had given her enough alcohol to make her tipsy but not completely intoxicated meaning that when she was found in the river, it would simply look as if she had fell in and couldn’t get out. They had toyed with the idea of her driving into it but the planning and angles were too hard to predict.

By now it was early morning so Scarlett had to work fast to not arouse suspicion. Packing her basics into a small suitcase, she headed for the door; she couldn’t be a part of this as she was too recognisable. She made her way out of the back into the waiting town car that would take her to the hotel she was staying at for the night.

Part 6- The Clean-up

In the meantime Michael was hard at work transporting the case to the car without being seen. As soon as he was in the car park and sure it was clear, he took Morgana out of the case and laid her in the boot of the rental car he had ordered for the four day stint in Milton Keynes.

Taking the case back to the room, Michael took one last look around the room to ensure that nothing was out of the ordinary, that would spark suspicion to the cleaners in the morning. He made the room a little bit messier, nothing over the top but enough to ensure the cleaners would work quickly, so as not to notice anything he might have missed.

He left the room quickly; ensuring that he was not seen as he made his way down the hall, looking behind him, he couldn’t get over the feeling he was being watched but ignored this and carried on. He had to be back to the room within the hour or the alibi would not work.

Sitting in the car, Michael took a deep breath to steady his nerves; this was the part he hated. Driving through the quiet streets of Milton Keynes; Michel resisted the urge to speed through the traffic lights and kept driving until he reached Tinkers Bridge. Parking close to the canal, he took Morgana out of the boot and carried her over to the bridge the dark brown water. Stopping for a second, Michael realised that the lampposts had started to switch off as dawn approached, enveloping the canal in darkness and pushing Michael to hurry.

Lifting Morgana to the edge of the bridge, Michael took one last look at her, and tried to shake the memory of her family waiting at home. Taking a deep breath, Michael placed the body over the edge of the bridge, carefully positioning her so she was leaning over the edge. Putting her hands on the edge of the bridge he pushed her forward slightly so that it would appear she was leaning over the bridge in her intoxication. Releasing her, he watched as her body dropped into the water, hoping that the resounding splash would not draw any attention to him. She would be found in the morning and it will look like another tragic accident on the way home from a great night out.

The next morning Scarlett turned on the news to see Morgana had been found and was relieved to see that she had not. She knew that it would have just appeared to be an accident but it was always good to be sure.
Looking around the room, the memories of last night coming flooding back to her. The empty bottles and cartons from the room service she had ordered to create an alibi – she had been in her room the whole time. She had rung through to Michael ensuring that he was in the room and that everything had gone without a hitch the night before.

As he entered the room, Scarlett could tell that this one had affected him. He had bloodshot eyes from a night of no sleep, stubble from not shaving, a creased shirt and a remained silent throughout the morning. He wouldn’t look her in the eye and was feeding his phone through his hands, as if he was in two minds whether to report it or not, he could ruin everything.

Scarlett had tried to talk to him; to tell him this was the end of it all, the last kill but it was clear that it was not going through. He would not communicate with her in any way, not even a grunt to say he understood it, and people were starting to notice. They had been close to each other, they had never had an argument in all the years they had worked together, and suddenly he was not talking to her.

Scarlett put in her headphones to block out the deafening silence that was the tour bus, looking up she caught on the news a report about Trina, her penultimate kill, she was surprised they had not found her. The news report typically showed a picture of her family crying that they wanted her back but something stopped Scarlett turning it over. Looking at Michael she stopped; he was different, he had lost all colour in his face and was tense. Guilt was plastered over his face.

By the time the tour bus had started to move, Scarlett had decided that Michael would have to go. With a heavy heart and silent tears she started planning…

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