It was a gorgeous day to be discovered in Hollywood.
The road was filled with luxury cars, the shops with glamorous, beautiful people, and the sunshine followed her like a spotlight.
Maggie had on her best Spanx jumpsuit, the drawstring cinched tight, with flared pantlegs, and color coordinated Vans hightops. In mauve brown, it offset her raven black hair, and matched her eyes, sparkling under the Eric Javits wide brimmed hat. She felt good and knew she looked good.
She strolled in front of shop after shop of high end retail arm in arm with her best friend. On this vibrant stage, she will be seen, be part of the fabulous world of movie stars and models. She would never walk from her law office to anywhere back home in Downtown San Francisco.
Her best friend, Kirsten was taking her to the ‘It’ spot on Sunset Blvd when it happened.
Maggie noticed his Givenchy all-white sneakers first, then looked up to the man wearing them as he passed by and turned into a sidewalk café. Their eyes caught for a moment, a spark of connection and then he looked away. Maggie glanced at Kirsten to see if she saw what happened, but she was on her phone. When Maggie turned back, the man was facing her. As she looked deep into his dark eyes, a strange smile appeared above his rugged jawline and then he pushed through into the café.
“Oh My god!” Maggie squealed, her hand hitting Kirsten. “I just saw… somebody! Somebody famous!”
“Who?” Wearing loose white Lululemon pants under a pale yellow Rag & Bone oversized silk top Kirsten flowed like a fluffy cockatoo as her head snapped up to look up at Maggie, and then into the café. “I don’t recognize anyone.”
“It was an actor-” Maggie's hands fluttered at her side. “He was in, oh, I can’t remember the name- but I recognized him for sure! And he smiled at me!”
“That’s LA for you.” Kirsten continued walking, until she noticed Maggie didn’t follow.
“You want to go here?” The café patio vibrated with activity, packed tight with well dressed people and their small dogs, the big umbrellas of yellow and pink waved slightly in the breeze. Most of the faces in the café, as if they were flowers following the sun, angled toward a figure in the corner, fingers and phones pointing.
“Is she a model?” Maggie stage-whispered, nodding her head toward a blonde with perfect features. She sat at a table alone in a pink Burberry hoodie pretending not to notice the attention. “I think I recognize her-”
Kirsten put her hand over her eyes to shade the morning California sun. “No, too short. But everyone uses the same plastic surgeon so-”
A chubby man walked past the two women and into the patio. Maggie wrinkled her nose at his worn khakis and faded baby blue polo shirt and leaned back as he turned to address them.
“-What are you two beautiful people doing standing on the street- come on in!” His crooked smile beamed wide below his too large nose and too narrow eyes.
He gestured with his hand and then walked in.
“This café is new, I haven't heard anything about it-” Kirsten looked at her phone, her huge Fendi sunglasses pushed up on her forehead. “It does have 4 stars on yelp -and something about the owner- but I don’t see any celebrity posts from here…”
“Come on, let's try it!” Maggie walked through into the courtyard patio, focused on finding her actor. Squinting into the café to find her celebrity, she ignored the squish under her foot, until a rapid yapping sound erupted at her ankle. Maggie took another step to escape, but her foot stuck slightly and she hoped that smell did not mean-.
She lifted her foot up high to see a brown smear on the patio with the waffle imprint of the Vans, next to a small fluffy dog in a pink Burberry hooded jacket, barking madly.
“You should watch where you’re walking.” The blond woman picked up the dog, nuzzling it. “Are you OK Jiffy-Poo?”
“You let your dog, shit, in a restaurant?” Maggie’s mouth dropped open..
“Jiffpom can do whatever he wants.” The woman turned slightly and then twisted her head back so her long blown-out locks flowed like a lion.
Maggie’s arms went out, but seeing no witness support, put her hands on her hips. “Hey lady, let me tell you what-”
Kirsten pushed her in the back and held out a napkin.
“Shit.” Maggie said.
“Exactly.” Kirsten stepped inside the café and pointed to an open table. “Over there, and clean off your shoe.”
At the small two-person table Maggie leaned back all the way, twisting herself sideways in her chair.
“What are you doing?”
“I can see him, he’s over by the window.” Maggie pointed with her chin.
Kirsten twisted around herself. “The guy in the black jacket, olive complexion? With the dark haired woman? He is hot!”
Maggie stood up, pretended to stretch and then leaned forward, squinting.
“Yes!” She sat back down. “What is he from- he is so familiar!”
“I can't tell, I mean everyone in LA kind of looks the same-” Kristen shrugged.
“-I think he was in Fast & Furious.”
“Which one?” Kirsten asked
Maggie waved her hand. “The one with the cars, and the explosions. I think he was the villain-” She snapped her fingers. “Is that- Paul Walker!?”
“Could be,” Kirsten nodded, “except he is dead.” She looked around the café. “Do we order ourselves, or have you seen a waiter?”
“I see a counter over there.” Maggie grinned. “I will go by his table, we have a connection!”
“Maggie.” Kirsten leaned toward her friend, “why do you care so much about celebrities? They are not special, or make the world a better place. They lie for a living.”
Maggie stopped shifting around and stared at the table. “I know them- they are like my friends. In the movies, or in my living room, I see them more than my family! They live interesting lives, better than anyone I actually know. I have to work for a living, but they have romances and adventures, and well, they are as beautiful as Greek gods.”
“But you're a lawyer.” Kristen tilted her head. "You have important clients, you live in that fabulous apartment with the view of the bridge-”
Maggie’s eyes were unfocused, looking over Kirsten’s head. “If I met someone famous in person, it would be like I was in the movie with them. I would be in the story.”
“This guy,” Kirsten waved to the other side of the café, “the one we followed in here- do you even know why he's famous?”
“He smiled at me- he likes me. How awesome is that!” She jumped up- “I’ll get the coffees- the usual?”
She did not see any other obvious celebrities while she waited in line.
“You made it” The man who welcomed them in stood behind the counter.
“I’m Greg. What can I get you?” The crooked smile re-appeared on his face. His arms, thick and hairy, were open and loose at his sides. He had the curved-down eyes and slicked back hair of a friendly otter.
As she requested, "two iced caramel macchiatos, one pump, extra shot" she noticed the board with the name of the restaurant, ‘Greg’s Gratitude Café’.
“This is your café?” Maggie looked him up and down to see what she had missed earlier..
“Yup- opened a few months ago. Glad you came in.” He put his hand on the counter to lean over. He smelled like white lilies and the clear blue sky over the ocean.
“I opened this café after I sold my startup. All organic, all plant based, our coffees are sustainably sourced, all materials compostable and green. We’re as good for you as sunshine and a cool breeze.” Greg winked.
“It's great for the café to have celebrities like you in here. Tell all your friends!”
A barista brought over the two foaming drinks, hearts artfully designed in the foam and Maggie took one in each hand.
“Oh, I am not an actress…” Maggie laughed.
“I know who you are," Greg winked. “I’m a big fan!”
To pass the front window Maggie had to walk behind two large plants and duck under a low hanging vent, then weave her way through the café tables to walk by not-Paul Walker’s table.
His easy smile was so familiar, but Maggie could not remember what movie she had seen him in. He had taken his jacket off, and his white linen shirt, Luca Faloni maybe, hung loose on his lean body. His smooth skin and sleek physique reminded Maggie of a lizard, his dark beaded eyes darted up at Maggie.
At his look, her smile erupted like stadium lights turning on at night, brightly lighting up the room. Joy electrified her to be seen by someone famous!
Her last few weeks had been challenging at her work, she was scratching and fighting to keep the biggest case of her life from falling apart because the defendant had skipped out on bail. Her other cases were piling up, and the long hours had driven her to take this spur of the moment trip to LA away from the dreary fog of San Francisco.
“Hello!” She said. “I’m such a fan-”
At her words the man’s mouth rolled into a sneer, threatening her with his clenched sharp, white teeth before looking away. The small, mousy- haired woman, in brown and white printed Gucci track pants and jacket, didn’t even look over.
Suddenly self-conscious, Maggie realized how foolish she looked, standing in the middle of this café, just staring. She was a nobody, why would this actor even acknowledge her. Just one of the masses here to idolize the gods. She should not dare to speak with them. Maggie needed to leave.
Something interrupted her quick step to leave, her right foot kicked a table, and stopped. She put her hands out to catch herself, but the coffee in the cups kept going, flying in a low parabolic arc. As if in a slow motion she watched the foam hearts float in the air, gently flying, and just like her own dreams they crashed back to earth.
The coffee splashed the man's right side, a starburst pattern of brown on his face, arm and white shirt.
“Oh I’m so sorry!” Maggie leaned forward with an attempt to wipe off his shirt with her hands, still holding two coffee cups, empty. She paused to look at them, angry at the cups as if they were the cause of all her problems.
“Damn!” He stood up abruptly. ‘What are you doing- and what is that smell?
His face, filled with rage, triggered her memory of how she knew this man.
He was not a famous actor. He was not in Fast & Furious. He should not even be in LA.
He was the defendant in her embezzlement case. The missing defendant.
The vice-president of a real estate company, he had skipped town with millions of embezzled funds. And, if she remembered the photos right, his pretty young secretary, this woman sitting at the table.
“Fucking Michael Bravo!” Maggie yelled.
“Goddamn you- I saw you following me. How did you track me from San Francisco? And who do you think you are -in your, shit brown pantsuit and Vans?” He stood up. “ I can’t believe a woman- of your age is wearing Vans!” He hissed, fangs out.
Maggie paused at Michael’s words. Shame began to creep in to her thoughts, she was not too old for these shoes-
She shook her head, and snapped out of holiday mode into the fierce prosecutor worthy of her nickname ‘The Blackhawk’.
Her eyes blazed, her back arched. She threw down the cups, and flexed her fingers, nails polished and shining in Tiramisu brown lacquer.
“Sit down!” She poked a sharp claw into his coffee covered chest. "You are not going anywhere. I know who you are and your running is over.”
His eyes darted right toward the door and he took a step to escape.
From behind Maggie a large figure grabbed Michaels shoulder in his huge paw. It was Greg!
“I think you are staying put-” Greg’s eyes blazed and he held a large wooden roasting paddle in his other hand. Michael deflated, sinking back into his chair, twisting in on himself, his head in his hands.
The woman stood up, “I don’t know who you are but I am not -”
“”Stay, and shut it. I know you are involved too.” Maggie raged.
The woman broke under Maggie’s stare and scurried back into her chair.
Maggie had her phone out, number already dialed.
“Joanie- I found Michael Bravo, and his secretary down here in Hollywood. Send the cops now! I'll text you the address."
Maggie hung up, pushed a few buttons on her phone and then looked around, her hands on her hips.
“This right here," Greg looked out into the café all watching the spectacle, "is the Blackhawk!" Greg gestured to Maggie." The -fiercest- US Attorney for the Northern District of California!"
The entire café applauded.
Greg leaned over, “Your office interviewed me for an inside trading case. I am a huge fan!" He raised his hands. "I was found innocent! Maybe I can get your autograph or-”
"-Yes." Maggie smiled back. She wanted to learn a lot more about Greg and that crooked smile.
Two uniformed police officers walked in. Both women, one stood tall and lean, the other short and wide. They arrested both Michael and his secretary, camera flashes clicked all around them. They led them away in handcuffs, Michael’s white shirt covered in stripes of spilled coffee. They nodded to Maggie.
“Thanks. Is this guy famous?” The tall police officer asked Maggie.
“I think he was in Fast & Furious.” The shorter one responded. She pulled the man’s elbow. “I’m going to sell the mug shot.” She said as she walked out.
“That was awesome!” Greg said standing next to Maggie. “Just like Law & Order!”
“You’re trending on Insta.” Kirsten interrupted.
“What?” Maggie grabbed the phone. “For Michael's arrest?”
Maggie looked at a picture of herself with her foot up yelling. From the angle of the photo it looked like she is about to step on the small fuzzy dog. It was tagged, #Karenconfronts#Jiffpom.
“I don’t understand. Who is going to see this, it’s just a dog?”
“That is not just a dog, it is Jiff the Pomeranian. Jiffpom has 10 million followers. You are famous.”
Maggie looked up. “ I am?” She looked again at the phone.
“I look tall in this picture!” She smiled. “I love LA!”