This is the twenty-fifth part of a fiction serial, in 901 words.
As the book was still riding high, Gabby took every opportunity to make any guest appearance offered to her. The late-night chat shows were fertile ground, as she could be more graphic about details of her past, and there was no censorship. As well as those, Gabby got onto the shock-jock radio broadcasts, laying it on thick about how her mum brought men to have sex with her, and how teachers traded extra tution and exam questions for sex in their cars.
Every time she appeared, that generated more headlines, which in turn sold more books, and got her more offers of TV appearances.
Negotiating the film rights proved to be easier than Steve had hoped. After a couple of companies showed no interest, Gabby went on the Graham Norton show to plug her book, and Graham cried as she described trembling in fear when she knew men would be coming into her room to have sex with her.
The next day, four companies were bidding for the rights. Gabby stepped in, and accepted the offer that would allow her some say in casting, as long as her chosen actors were available, and wanted the job. She signed a fifty-grand advance to include a share of all DVD rights, streaming rights, and any merchandising. Once filming started, the book could be reissued with a photo of the star on the cover, and the words ‘Now A Major Movie’ wrapped around it.
Two days later, she appeared on the Jonathan Ross chat show, and dropped her bombshell. She accused Steve James of raping her in his Norwich flat when she was staying there while he was negotiating her book deal. In floods of tears, she eventually had to be consoled by Jonathan. Steve had been watching the show at the time, and his jaw hit the floor when she said that. He rang her mobile after she was off screen, and it turned out the number was unavailable.
Gabby had a new phone, and a new number.
When he drove to her hotel the next morning, he wasn’t unduly surprised to discover that she was no longer staying there. Dozens of calls to all his contacts failed to find her anywhere. She had gone to ground again. Back at his flat that evening, he was halfway through a bottle of whisky when there was a loud banging on the door. Three policeman were standing in the lobby when he opened it. The one in plainclothes smiled as he showed his I.D. card.
“Mister Steven James? I am Detective Sergeant Murphy. I would like you to accompany us to a police station for questioning. You may call a solicitor if you wish. You are not under arrest at this time, but if you decline to come with us I am prepared to arrest you on suspicion of a serious offence”. Steve felt as if he was going to throw up, and swallowed hard.
“Just let me get my coat and keys, officer”.
They drove him to a main police station in Norwich, and he declined legal representation. When confronted with Gabby’s accusation, he denied it. “I never touched her. I slept on the sofa”. He was aked to provide a DNA sample and fingerprints voluntarily, and agreed to that. “I have nothing to hide. This is all a set-up. I know what she’s up to”.
Someone brought him a cup of tea, and he was left in the Interview Room for almost an hour. Then Murphy came back. “Okay, you can go home tonight, but be prepared to come back in for questioning when asked. And definitely bring a solicitor next time, because that interview will be under caution, and recorded. You may also face charges on that occasion. Two officers are waiting to give you a lift home”.
After finishing the bottle of whisky, Steve slept heavily that night. He didn’t wake up until after ten the next morning, and as he stumbled out of the bedroom he almost fainted with shock to see Gabby sitting on his sofa, smoking a cigarette. Before he got his brain into gear to be able to start shouting at her, Gabby was already talking.
“It’s your day of reckoning, Stevie boy. Time to pay for all the lives you have ruined, and the lies you have told. I can make my way to the police station to give them a statement about how you dragged me to your bed and raped me, or I can say it is all too traumatic to go over it again, and drop the charges. It’s entirely up to you. Sign these papers, or get seven years inside in the nonce wing. Simple as. You’ve had it anyway, whether you go to trial or not. You will always be known as the journo who raped a vunerable girl he was pretending to help, even without a guilty verdict”.
Snatching the papers from her, he speed-read the main parts. He was signing over his twenty-five percent of her company in perpetuity, with no comebacks. There was also a non-disclosure agreement, forbidding him to write about the story in any form, or talk about it to anyone else. Forever. It was already witnessed in advance, and signed and sealed by a top London lawyer whose name he recognised immediately. It took him less than ten seconds to make his decision.
“Give me a pen”.